Thad Matta picked up his first win at Wisconsin as the Buckeyes (20-3) rode a 24/10 dub-dub from Jared Sullinger and a strong team defensive effort to turn back the Badgers 58-52 this afternoon in the Kohl Center.
The win gives OSU a national best five wins against the Top 25 (5-2), stops a nine game losing streak in Madison and keeps the Buckeyes in sole possession of first place in conference with an 8-2 mark.
Deshaun Thomas was Sully's main sidekick adding 16 points (8/15) and six boards and while William Buford was mostly Bad Buford today shooting 4/15, he was solid in the final minutes and finished with 11 points, six boards and three turnovers.
In your typical OSU at Wisconsin slow paced slugfest, the Buckeyes played 32 minutes before someone other than the big three scored a point as Lenzelle Smith Jr. converted a strong drive down the lane for an and-1 and a 45-38 Buckeye lead with 8:14 left in regulation.
Just as it appeared Matta's troops were in total control, the defense flagged allowing the Badgers to score on five straight possessions after a Mike Bruesewitz triple capped a 12-6 spurt cutting the lead to 51-50 with 3:39 to play.
Unfazed, Buford capitalized on a Sully steal burying a triple from the right wing to put OSU in front by four at 54-50. The defense then went back to work forcing back to back empty possessions before Aaron Craft hit two free throws pushing the lead to 56-50 with :58 remaining. Jordan Taylor responded with a layup to make it 56-52 but forced to foul, the Badgers put Buford on the line and he prompty buried a pair to make it 58-52 good guys with :34 on the clock.
The defense, not quite done demoralizing the Badgers, forced two missed shots in between Smith forcing Ben Brust to travel with :12 left meaning the Scarlet and Gray held Wisky to two points on 1/4 shooting with three turnovers over the final 3:39 to seal the deal. That's how you win on the road in the B1G.
The Buckeyes held Wisconsin to 40% from the field and totally shut down the three point game holding the Badgers to 5/27 (19%) while winning the glass 30-25.
Taking advantage of Bo Ryan's decision to play Sully straight up, the big man blew up scoring Ohio State's first nine points and 16 in the first half on 6/8 shooting via an assortment of power moves in the paint and a feathery turnaround fadeaway jumper.
Wisconsin used an 8-0 run to take an 18-15 lead at the 7:34 mark of the first half but OSU closed on a 13-6 run to take a 28-24 lead at intermission. Only four Buckeyes took shots in the opening 20 minutes and only three scored with Thomas recording eight points and Buford four. Craft was non-existent offensively going 0/2 from the floor with two turnover and two fouls though he helped hold the regressed Taylor to five points.
Ryan Evans picked up Taylor's slack scoring 10 first half points as neither Thomas or Evan Ravenel could handle his quicks. Evans was the only Badger to make noise however as OSU held them to 2/14 from beyond the arc en route to the four point halftime lead.
For the game, Ohio State didn't exactly light it up shooting 43% overall including just 14% from distance (1/7) though the one make was Buford's big shot.
Behind Sully's 8/10, the Buckeyes shot 13/16 from the stripe, outscoring the Badgers (3/3) by 10.
Sullinger's clutch performance helped him become the 48th Buckeye to record 1,000 career points.
Overall, the Buckeyes have to feel good about stopping the skid in Kohl and improving to 4-3 on the road.
Evans led four Badgers in double figures with 14 points with Bruesewitz adding 11 points and 11 boards.
The Buckeyes welcome Purdue to the Schott at 9pm on Tuesday night ahead of the Saturday showdown with Sparty.