Wisconsin Basketball took to the road last night, traveling to Ohio State University. They emerged victorious with a 65-60 rare Big Ten road win.
Badgers start off on fire
While temperatures have been plummeting across the country, Wisconsin came out hotter than a pepper sprout. Connor Essegian scored 5 of his game-high 17 points and Max Klesmit drained a 3 as the Badgers scored the first eight points of the contest.
Ohio State answered with their own 8-0 run, knotting the game at the 16:13 mark. While it got a little dicey at the end of the game, that was the last time Ohio State threatened to take the lead.
Wisconsin executed their offensive sets much better in the first half. The movement off the ball was impressive and led to quite a few open looks. This play by Steven Crowl is a perfect example of this.
Buckeye’s coach gets heated himself
As the first half was coming to a close with Wisconsin leading 37-27, Ohio State’s Justice Sueing was called for an offensive charge with 27 seconds left. Ohio State head coach Chris Holtman apparently disagreed with the call and went ballistic. He was called for two technical fouls and ejected from the game.
Essegian calmly sunk all four free throws and Chucky Hepburn added the first half’s final bucket to give Wisconsin a large 43-27 halftime lead.
For the first time in the last seven games, Wisconsin took a lead into the locker room. The question looming large was whether would they be able to hold onto it.
Wisconsin Basketball struggles to hold the lead
For most of the second half, it seemed as though the Badgers would indeed keep the lead safe, and at the 7:18 mark, they held a seemingly safe 62-47 lead.
If there’s one thing we have learned about the Wisconsin Badgers this basketball season is that NO lead is safe.
It started with an innocuous 3-point shot by Ohio State. Tyler Wahl, having one of his worst games of the season, missed the next shot and Klesmit committed a foul attempting to get the rebound. Two made free throws and the 15-point lead was down to 10.
The Buckeyes continued to whittle down the lead, and with just 30 seconds remaining the Badgers’ lead was down to a mere two points.
Hepburn made three out of four foul shots in the last 24 seconds to close out the game.
While Wahl might have struggled from the field, only scoring 5 points, the rest of the starters picked up the pace and all tallied double-digit points. Chucky Hepburn had 15 points, Steven Crowl had 14 points and 9 boards, and Max Klesmit had 12 points. As mentioned previously, Connor Essegian had 17 points and also chipped in with 7 rebounds.
Collectively, Wisconsin shot 41.8% from the field and only 30% (6-20) from 3-point land. As usual, they struggled on the foul line, going 13-22 (59.1%) and their inexplicable struggles on the glass continue, being outrebounded 45-26 by Ohio State.
Despite the difficulties encountered, Wisconsin fought through them and scratched out a much-needed road win. It might not have been the prettiest game ever played, but at this juncture, an ugly win is much better than a close loss.
Wisconsin takes to the court again on Sunday, at home against Northwestern. These 2 teams faced each other 13 days ago and the Wildcats handed Wisconsin a 66-63 loss. That game, however, had been delayed and was on the road. Sunday’s tilt, which tips off at 5:30 p.m. (CST), is in the Kohl Center.
In my earlier projections I stated that if Wisconsin could win their home games (with the exception of Purdue, which I anticipated a loss) and steal a win or two on the road, they should have a solid chance of making the Big Dance. The loss against Illinois stung but was not the end of the world. Looking ahead at the remainder of the schedule, it is possible they could win any of the road games remaining. If they can defend their home turf and pick up one more road win, I still predict they’ll be dancing come March.
Sunday’s game against Northwestern then takes on a higher significance. Was this ugly win against a bad Ohio State team just a momentary ebb of losses, or was it a sign of improved things to come? We’ll have to wait to find out.