Men's basketball: Ohio State goes inside to beat Wisconsin
Deshaun Thomas, right, is congratulated by Evan Ravenel, left, and Shannon Scott after scoring a basket in the second half. Thomas finished with 25 points.
For as long as Bo Ryan has been the coach at Wisconsin, the area inside the Badgers’ defense has been a black hole seldom visited by opponents.
Last night, Ohio State went where few had gone before.
Attacking the Badgers where they usually tighten a noose around offenses, the 11th-ranked Buckeyes scored 34 points in the paint, 20 in the second half, in pulling away for a 58-49 Big Ten victory in Value City Arena.
Ohio State shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half against a defense that had limited it to 39.1 percent in the first. The Buckeyes made 12 of 19 shots inside the three-point arc while attempting three from outside it, and only five for the game.
Coach Thad Matta said he was “shocked” by that.
“It’s hard to (get inside against the Badgers) because they’re so pack-oriented,” he said. “Their positioning defensively is really, really good.
“I don’t know this for certain, but I’d say that we’ve never taken just five threes against a Wisconsin team in the time I’ve been here. But we were able to find some seams.”
Deshaun Thomas scored a game-high 25 points, 10 of them in a 15-0 run that rallied the Buckeyes (16-4, 6-2) from a four-point deficit to an 11-point lead in a little more than six minutes. They rode it to the finish over the final 61/2 minutes to stay one game behind Big Ten co-leaders Indiana and Michigan in the loss column.
Thomas also tied a career high with four assists, three of them in the first 61/2 minutes of the second half.
“We knew it was probably going to be a low-scoring game because that’s what Wisconsin likes,” Thomas said. “Coach said we had to show toughness, and we executed really well. We screened, we cut really hard, we passed the ball real well.”
Aaron Craft had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds and was “tremendous” penetrating the Badgers’ defense, Matta said. LaQuinton Ross had eight points off the bench, including a three-pointer as the Buckeyes finished the 15-0 run with five points off Wisconsin turnovers.
Traevon Jackson, a Westerville South graduate and son of former Ohio State All-American Jim Jackson, scored 12 points to lead Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3).
Jackson said it was “crazy” that the Badgers did not shoot a free throw in the game.“I’ve never played in a game where we didn’t get to the free-throw line,” he said.
But Ryan, whose teams had never gone without a free throw in 389 previous games at Wisconsin, chalked it up to the Badgers attempting more than half their shots — 28 of 52 — from outside the three-point arc and the fact that his two big men, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, could not finish chances near the basket. They missed eight of 10 shots in the paint.
“We had some looks,” Ryan said.
Wisconsin led 41-37 before falling victim to the 15-0 run, in which the Buckeyes scored on seven of nine possessions. The Badgers, meanwhile, went more than seven minutes without a point, missing seven shots and committing three turnovers.
“That was one of those runs where you’re down two and you look up and you’re up six or eight without really realizing they haven’t scored for a while,” Craft said. “I think we did a good job of just staying connected, staying focused and locked in. We were able to do that for a good stretch and were able to finish off the game.”
Three of Ohio State’s first four baskets in the decisive run were layups out of their half-court offense; the other was a short jumper by Thomas from the short left wing.
Matta was coy when asked how the Buckeyes got such good looks inside.
“I don’t know,” he said, smiling. “I don’t want to divulge my secrets. We have to go back to Madison.”
The rematch is Feb. 17.