Jared Berggren hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 31 seconds remaining, then iced the game with a pair of free-throws as the 15th-ranked Badgers came from behind to upset the 9th-ranked Buckeyes 63-60 in Columbus. Berggren scored 18 points overall, while Jordan Taylor led the Badgers with 19.
After an Aaron Craft jumper put Ohio State up by 8 with 8:17 remaining, the Badgers outscored the Buckeyes 21-10 to finish the game. Berggren and Taylor dominated the late minutes, both individually and in tandem as a pick-and-pop pair. The Buckeyes, who pushed Wisconsin around inside for most of the first half, suddenly couldn’t make a shot under the basket, and didn’t have much more luck from the free-throw line. Much of the credit goes to a Wisconsin defense that got knocked around in the early second half but tightened up in the late going. Defense was something to be expected in this game, as UW and OSU rank third and first, respectively, in defensive efficiency. The Badgers did a great job of neutralizing their opponent’s strengths, though. They kept the rebounding battle almost perfectly even, grabbing just enough offensive boards (8) to disrupt Ohio State’s running game and score a few easy buckets. The Badgers also shot a healthy 38.1% from behind the arc and missed only two free-throws.
In fact, it was about as typical a Wisconsin basketball performance as you’ll find, aside from the end result: the victory actually snapped a 40-game road losing streak to conference opponents ranked in the top-10. The Badgers launched 38.2% of their shots from deep; about 40% of their shots on the season have been threes. They didn’t draw many free-throws, but they made what they got. The game contained 60 possessions; Wisconsin averages about 59 a game. That deliberate pace again played a huge role, as the Buckeyes’ superior shooting and efficient transition game would almost certainly have carried them to victory in a higher-possession contest, the kind they prefer to play. The Badgers finished with a 104.4 offensive rating, Ohio State finished at 99.4.
Deshaun Thomas and William Buford did their best to buoy OSU, combining for 38 points on 50% shooting. But the Buckeyes couldn’t survive an uninspired performance from star forward Jared Sullinger, who scored only 8 points on 4-10 shooting and was nowhere near Berggren when he drilled his monster three. It wasn’t just Sullinger: Ohio State made plenty of mistakes, and it wouldn’t be altogether inaccurate to say they gave this one away. They made only 10 of their 19 free-throws and turned the ball over on 20% of their possessions. Their bench scored only one point. Twice they jumped out to significant leads and looked to be taking control, only to see Wisconsin answer with a quick run.
More than anything, the Buckeyes couldn’t contain Jordan Taylor’s scoring punch. Taylor has fallen a long way from his phenomenal 2010-2011 season, but you wouldn’t know it from his performance today. 19 points on only 8 shots—a model of efficiency. Despite committing an uncharacteristic 3 turnovers (which says something in itself), Taylor looked completely unflappable, particularly late in the second half. He mixed together clutch jumpers, assists, and strong drives to the bucket, earning four trips to the foul line in the game’s last three minutes. Beside Taylor and Berggren, Ryan Evans contributed 10 points (though he almost shot Wisconsin out of the game), while Rob Wilson sank three long-range buckets off the bench.
The victory does wonders for Wisconsin’s confidence and resume as they near tournament time, but it’s likely too late to improve their conference positioning too much. They’re still bunched up with a few other teams behind Michigan State, who clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Title with OSU’s loss. Tiebreakers will likely bump the Badgers’ seed down a few notches when the Big Ten Tournament rolls around, barring a lot of losing by the teams around them.
But honestly, few Wisconsin fans are concerned with that right now. Beating Ohio State is always reason for jubilant celebration, all the more enjoyable when it comes in the form of such an excellent game. I’m left as stupefied as ever in my attempts to describe this team, but tonight, I just don’t care.