Coming into Value City Arena Tuesday night the Wisconsin Badgers were feeling pretty confident about their chances against the #11 Buckeyes. This confidence was not without reason. In their last outing this tough Wisconsin team had won a close match against the then #12 ranked Gophers of Minnesota, and had just come up a couple points shy of a win in a hotly contested match against the then #13 ranked Michigan State Spartans.
The game started off about as slow as a college game could. It took a full minute and a half (and four missed shots) before there were any points on the board. Wisconsin broke the ice with a 3-pointer, and then it was over a minute later before Deshaun Thomas was able to put the first points up for the Buckeyes. From that point it was over four and a half minutes before another point was scored by either team. Halfway through the first half the Badgers led the Buckeyes by one, 9-8.
So far this was not a game for the highlight reel.
Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and in basketball that can mean that controlled caution must rule over the desire to just let loose and run. Wisconsin is a very good basketball team as noted earlier. Thad Matta is a wily coach who understands better than most how to control a game to your advantage. That's exactly what was going on in this not-so-fun-to-watch first half, as the Buckeyes controlled the tempo of the game, working hard to contain the key elements of the Badger attack. So the first half ended with the Badgers in the lead by 2, 26-24.
The same tempo continued at the beginning of the second half, with this hoops competition resembling a chess game as much as anything else. The two teams worked hard to to outmaneuver each other, and it stayed close for about 10 minutes. At that point Matta gradually released the reins and let his team start moving on its own.
It hardly seemed fair.
As good as the Badgers are, when the Buckeyes let loose they just couldn't match up. Ohio State's pressure had Wisconsin rushing their shot selection and lowering their shooting percentage. In those last ten minutes the Buckeyes were everywhere and in control. Ohio State out rebounded the Badgers 11-6 and outscored them 15-8 in those last minutes. It was a tremendous strategy by Coach Matta, and it worked perfectly.
Probably the most amazing statistic of the game was that Ohio State made 75% of their free throws (9 of 12) while Wisconsin did not get to the free throw line even one time during the entire game. Ohio State committed only 12 personal fouls the entire game, 6 in each half, so the Badgers never got a chance to improve their score with the clocked stopped.
Well done Buckeyes.
This win gives Ohio State a 16-4 record, putting them only 4 wins away from another 20 win season for Coach Matta. More importantly the Buckeyes are now 6-2 in the Big Ten, tied for second place with #13 Michigan State. Tied for first place is #1 Michigan and #3 Indiana, both at 6-1.
Next up Ohio State travels to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers on Saturday. That game starts at 7:00pm ET on the Big Ten network. Then Tuesday that game will be followed by a huge matchup as the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to meet up with the top ranked Wolverines on their home court. Michigan has one loss on the season, and that was at the hands of the Buckeyes.
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