Pride and Pettiness: Chapter 4, Wisconsin Basketball Coach Bo Ryan Has to Deal With It

By David Regimbal on October 8, 2020 at 11:05 am
Bo Ryan

You've made it to Pride and Pettiness.

Even though sports at large have returned, we're still living in tough times. Some people, like our very own Ramzy, like to cope by looking back at happy memories. I, personally, like to revisit moments of satisfying pettiness.

Like Ramzy, my philosophy is simple. From Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

That we do, Jane. In today's chapter, we're traveling back to a treasured basketball moment, when Bo Ryan had to deal with the consequences of his own actions.

The Setup

Before we get to the moment mentioned above, it's important to provide context. Pettiness can't exist without something in the past to build from.

That moment came when No. 1 and unbeaten Ohio State traveled to Madison for a showdown against No. 13 Wisconsin. The Buckeyes, who had rattled off 24 consecutive wins (highlighted by routs over No. 9 Florida and No. 12 Purdue) had a perfect combination of senior leadership and young talent.

David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford were the vets while Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas provided an infusion of energy. They formed a team that would go on to become the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

But on February 12, Wisconsin stunned Ohio State.

The Buckeyes looked to be taking care of business, leading by 15 in the second half. Thad Matta's team was cruising to another win and keeping hope alive for an extremely rare undefeated season, but the Badgers went on a run.

Led by point guard Jordan Taylor, who scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, Wisconsin ripped off a 15-0 run and eventually took the lead. It went on to upset Ohio State 71-67, and the Badgers faithful rushed the court after the final buzzer.

The loss was particularly painful for Ohio State fans considering it was the second time Wisconsin had ruined a perfect regular season in the span of four months. In October, Terelle Pryor and the No. 2 Buckeyes were upset by the Badgers in Madison.

But the setup happened after the game was decided. Reportedly, one of the fans rushing the court spat on Sullinger. That news made its way to the Wisconsin coach, who responded accordingly.

"There's absolutely nothing that's come to my attention," Ryan said, according to Shannon Ryan the The Chicago Tribune. "We have the greatest fans in America. All I know is we won the game, deal with it."

The Pettiness

The Badgers made the return trip to Columbus for the regular season finale — a Sunday spotlight showdown against the Buckeyes. Ohio State was once again ranked No. 1 and Wisconsin checked in at No. 10.

The game started in a blur. The Buckeyes missed their first three-point attempt, but that was their only misfire behind the arch that day. They went on to hit 14 consecutive three-pointers, led by Diebler, who went 7-8 from distance. He led the Buckeyes in scoring with 27, while Sullinger added 22 points and eight rebounds as Ohio State obliterated Wisconsin 93-65.

The Buckeyes made a big deal about Ryan's "deal with it," comment. The school made 1,400 towels with the phrase printed on it and passed them out before the game. The student section, located directly behind both benches, hounded Ryan all game and waved the towels mockingly.

"I don't know if you could script it much better," Matta said after the game. "Our defensive energy was incredible, and offensively the shots were falling."

The win clinched the outright Big Ten regular season title for Ohio State, which went on to win the tournament title as well.

Asked about the hostile crowd and the towels after the game, Ryan only offered this.

"What towels? ... I know one thing, towels didn't blow the ball in on all those 3s."

It certainly wasn't the towels. It was the team he had told to deal with it.

View 30 Comments