3-Point Shooting Woes and a Big Night From Wisconsin's Supporting Cast Lead to Ohio State's 78-68 Loss

By Griffin Strom on January 13, 2022 at 11:02 pm
Johnny Davis, Tyler Wahl, E.J. Liddell
Mary Langenfeld – USA TODAY Sports

If somebody told Chris Holtmann that Johnny Davis would have his worst game of the season against the Buckeyes on Thursday, he’d probably have liked his chances to beat the Badgers.

Davis, who entered the night fourth in the country in scoring average (22.3), poured in 24 of Wisconsin’s 55 points in the first meeting between the two programs a month ago. But in the rematch of that 18-point Ohio State win, the Badgers’ star guard was anything but spectacular, scoring 14 points on 4-for-18 (22 percent) shooting to finish with season-worst marks in both categories.

So surely Ohio State must have run away with things in Madison, right? Not so fast.

There were a number of contributing factors in the Buckeyes’ 78-68 loss to Greg Gard and company, but two of the most prevalent were the massive contributions made by Davis’ supporting cast and Ohio State having its worst 3-point shooting performance in three seasons.

Ohio State shot 3-for-19 from deep on the night, and took 12 triples before hitting its first – a make from E.J. Liddell that finally ended the drought nearly seven minutes into the second half. The final percentage on the night for the Buckeyes, 15.8, was their worst since shooting 15.4 percent in a 68-50 loss to Northwestern on March 6, 2019.

“We’re such a good shooting team, and we had some good looks that we missed, but I also thought they really hug shooters, and they’re not gonna give your best shooters clean looks,” Holtmann said after the game. “We just couldn’t take advantage of that enough.”

The Buckeyes entered Thursday’s game with the third-most average 3-point makes per game in the Big Ten (9.3), but finished with less than a third of that number on the road against the 13th-ranked team in the country.

Liddell, who led the Buckeyes with 18 points in the loss, was the only Ohio State player to shoot a decent percentage from the 3-point line on the night. While Liddell shot 2-for-3, everyone else went a combined 1-for-16 from downtown.

Jamari Wheeler finished 0-for-5, Kyle Young went 0-for-3 and Justin Ahrens closed his night out 1-for-4 and every other Buckeye not named Liddell missed every attempt they took. The performance was particularly worrisome for Ahrens, who shot 0-for-5 from three in Ohio State’s last game against Northwestern on Sunday, and is now shooting 16.7 percent from the 3-point line in his last four games.

The Badgers entered the game as one of the least 3-point reliant teams in the conference, but they equaled their highest total of 3-point makes all season, shooting 10-for-23. In the Dec. 11 meeting, Wisconsin shot just 6-for-26 from the 3-point line, with that 23.1% conversion rate still standing among the three worst performances the team has had all season.

But Davis was not the one lighting it up for the Badgers for a change. The sophomore standout shot just 1-for-5 from behind the line while his teammates picked up the slack to help earn Wisconsin a sixth straight win since losing to the Buckeyes last month.

Senior guard Brad Davison led the way for Wisconsin with 25 points, including 4-for-6 shooting from three, and third-year forward Tyler Wahl had his second-highest scoring night of the season with a 20-point effort against the Buckeyes. That pair, which combined for 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting in the first crack at the Buckeyes, finished with 45 points on 15-for-22 shooting from the floor Thursday.

“(Wahl)’s a good player,” Holtmann said. “He’s big, long, impacts both ends, he’s not just a one-way player. He’s a really good defender, but his offense has really rounded into shape. Obviously he made a three for the first time this year. He’s a good player, we knew he was a good player, he just didn’t play well at our place. We knew he’d be a different player at home.”

Wahl was 0-for-17 from 3-point range all season before hitting 2-for-4 against Ohio State, and 7-foot center Steven Crowl knocked down an early triple as well to put the Badgers ahead early on in Madison. Wisconsin hit 7-of-13 threes in the first half alone to help it take a 13-point lead over Ohio State by halftime.

The 3-point shot proved significantly less fruitful for the Badgers in the second half, as the team shot just 3-for-10, but Wahl and Davison were no less impactful down the stretch. The duo each converted an and-one just 46 seconds apart in one key sequence, and Wahl and Davison combined to score 13 of the final 15 points on the night for Wisconsin.

If Ohio State’s first priority was to neutralize Davis’ impact on the game, then the mission was accomplished on Thursday. But the Buckeyes had too many other letdowns on both sides of the ball to pull off a win against one of the Big Ten’s hottest teams.

“I would take an 18-point win and Johnny Davis having 24 as opposed to this outcome,” Holtmann said. “We were obviously keyed on him and he commands a lot of attention, but we were as concerned about the attention he gets allowing other guys to kind of do what they do, and that’s what happened tonight.”

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