Ohio State and Wisconsin went to war on Wednesday.
In a second half that stayed within six points until the final minute, Jamison Battle and Bruce Thornton, despite some late lapses, fought to keep the Buckeyes afloat.
What was easily Value City Arena's most raucous crowd so far this season came away disappointed, however, as Wisconsin (12-3, 4-0) unglued the Buckeyes (12-4, 2-3) with a 19-4 extended run to close the contest.
Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit caught fire down the stretch of the game and led the Badgers to a 71-60 win with a team-high 18 points. AJ Storr followed with 17.
Battle amassed 18 points and went 4-of-5 from three in a losing effort. Thornton followed with 13 points and six assists.
Thornton and Battle worked to get Ohio State off to a strong start.
After Wisconsin went ahead 4-2 early, Thornton rose up to hit a contested mid-range jumper and tie things. He then took a pass from Evan Mahaffey off a defensive rebound and dished it quickly to Battle on the left wing for a rapid-fire transition three that made it 7-4 Buckeyes.
Thornton scored Ohio State's next two baskets, but the contest stayed largely nip-and-tuck until Battle decided to take control of things.
With time dwindling below three seconds on the shot clock, Battle took the ball on the right wing, drove toward the lane, then gathered and leaped back a good five feet to drill a contested triple as the buzzer sounded. It gave the Buckeyes their first three-score lead of the ballgame 22-15.
After Storr cut it to 22-17 on his second of four straight scores for the Badgers, Battle responded with another three in the final three seconds of the shot clock, another off-the-dribble shot that came from well beyond the top of the key this time.
Still, Storr and company worked to slice the lead back to 28-26 at the under-four media timeout, even if Thornton broke his streak of nine missed threes dating back to the Rutgers game on Jan. 3.
Storr and Battle traded triples before a pair of distance makes from Wisconsin's John Blackwell and Connor Essegian gave the Badgers their first lead since they were up 4-2 at 35-33, an edge they carried into halftime.
Wisconsin's lead wiggled between one and five points for the first seven minutes of the second period as Felix Okpara added his first two points on an alley-oop slam from Thornton to couple with what was then two blocks.
A baby hook from Mahaffey and a front-door cut and layup from Battle cut Ohio State's deficit to one again at 43-42 but the Badgers grabbed their largest lead of the game to that point at 48-42 with 12:26 remaining following an old-fashioned three-point play from center Steven Crowl.
Battle hit a floater and Okpara stuck back a missed shot with a foul, however, and hit the ensuing free throw to cut the lead back to 48-47.
Then Scotty Middleton nailed an open three from the left wing to bring the Value City Arena crowd to an uproar and put the Buckeyes back in front 50-48, capping an 8-0 run.
Ohio State pushed its lead to 56-52 soon after, but once it was cut to 56-54, Klesmit took over.
He rose up to hit a three-pointer from the left wing to give Wisconsin what proved to be its final lead of the night's proceedings, then cashed in a layup to make it 59-56 Wisconsin.
On the Badgers' following possession, Klesmit drilled yet another contested triple from the left wing.
Finally, with the shot clock winding down, Klesmit capped a string of 10 straight points for Wisconsin with a series of dribble moves to give himself space to knock down a mid-range jumper. Wisconsin led 64-58 with 2:17 to play.
Gayle hit a layup to make things 64-60 but the Badgers closed with another 7-0 streak. Klesmit and Storr hit their final two points apiece during the stretch.
Thornton had two one-and-one opportunities to stop the bleeding but missed the front end of both, allowing the Badgers to pull away and win by double digits.
Ohio State travels to Michigan on Monday for a road showdown with its archrival. The Wolverines are off to a rough 6-9 start to their campaign, so it should be a chance for the Buckeyes to snap their 11-game road losing streak. Tipoff is at noon on FOX.
- Ohio State is now 1-2 in January and has lost two games in a row for the first time all season.
- Dale Bonner saw little action against Wisconsin, playing just eight minutes as opposed to his season average of 20.7.
- Roddy Gayle Jr.'s struggles continued on Wednesday as the Buckeyes' shooting guard went 4-of-14 with just nine points and three turnovers. Across his last three games, he's shot 11-of-46 with 12 turnovers.
- Battle came up one made three short of setting the Ohio State record for most consecutive games with five triples. It would have been his fifth straight contest with five makes from range.