Three games in a row, Ohio State has seen second-half leads dwindle as the game's end neared. Only once, however, has it lost.
Bouncing back from a two-point defeat at Purdue, the 15th-ranked Buckeyes led for all but 20 seconds of Saturday's Big Ten matchup with No. 10 Wisconsin and secured a 74-62 victory at the Kohl Center in Madison. What was as much as a 13-point second-half lead dropped to only four points with less than five minutes to go, but the Badgers couldn't even it up.
Ohio State improved to 12-4 on the season and 6-4 within the Big Ten, while Wisconsin fell to 12-4 overall and 6-3 in the conference.
Wisconsin – trying to claw its way back in the game – made four of its first 21 3-point attempts, and then senior forward Aleem Ford drained a trio of triples during the course of four possessions late in the second half to pull the Badgers within four points with 4:40 remaining. Yet as was the case for the entirety of the day, they couldn't get over the hump, proceeding to go scoreless for the following three and a half minutes.
Duane Washington Jr. hit a pair of free throws, CJ Walker hit a jumper from the top of the key and then Walker hit two more foul shots to put the Buckeyes up 10 points with 1:19 left.
E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 20 points, making 7-of-12 shots from the field, a 3-pointer and half of his four free-throw attempts. Seth Towns added 10 points. Justin Ahrens drilled a trio of 3s for the fourth straight game, scoring nine points. Duane Washington Jr. had nine points as well. As a team, the visitors shot 50.9 percent from the floor and made 5-of-16 3s.
Wisconsin made only 41.1 percent of its shots and went 7-for-28 from deep.
For the vast majority of the first half, the Buckeyes controlled the action, leading for all but 20 seconds of it.
Back-to-back buckets from E.J. Liddell in the mid-range and Justice Sueing at the rim put them ahead early, and they led by as many as 11 points in the opening frame. Eight first-half points from Seth Towns, whose silky jumper fell a couple of times, and seven from Liddell led the way. Ohio State, over-reliant on 14 3s in the two-point loss to Purdue earlier in the week, made 11 shots from inside the arc in the opening 20 minutes and only got a pair of triples – one each from Justin Ahrens and Duane Washington Jr. – to go down.
Wisconsin missed a number of open shots in the first half, making only 3-of-15 3-pointers and shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. Senior guard D'Mitrik Trice – a Huber Heights native – led all scores in the first 20 minutes with nine points.
In the first half, CJ Walker played his first minutes after missing the prior four games due to torn ligaments in his right hand. He recorded eight points.
Next up: Ohio State goes back to Columbus to take on Michigan State (8-4, 2-4) on Sunday. The game at the Schottenstein Center tips off at 1 p.m. on CBS.
- Head coach Chris Holtmann stuck with the same starting five he used the three prior games: Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young.
- Jimmy Sotos (shoulder) and Ibrahima Diallo (sprained MCL) remained unavailable for the Buckeyes. They don't have timetables for their return to the court yet. This is the fourth game in a row that Sotos has missed, and Diallo hasn't played a game since Dec. 13.
- Over the course of their history, the Buckeyes entered the day leading the all-time series with Wisconsin, 88-73, though they also had lost three of four games against the Badgers in the Holtmann era.
- Walker checked into the game for his first minutes of the game just a little more than four minutes after it tipped off.
- At some point this season, Holtmann will be expected to trim his rotation. That, however, hasn't happened yet. He played 10 of the 11 available players in the first half alone. Musa Jallow was the only one in a uniform who didn't come off of the bench.
- Liddell reached the 400-point mark on Saturday in the second half.