Make it three in a row for the No. 11-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team.
After back-to-back wins against Iowa and Penn State, the Buckeyes dropped unranked Wisconsin, 58-49, Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center.
Much like he has all season, junior forward Deshaun Thomas carried OSU’s offensive load and tickled the twine to the tune of 25 points.
And like he did against the Nittany Lions, Thomas had help.
Junior guard Aaron Craft chipped in 13 points and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross added eight.
But it was Thomas’ performance that guided the Buckeyes to their sixth Big Ten win of the season.
“I was in attack mode,” Thomas said. “Coach (Thad Matta) said we got to be aggressive, we got to get out in transition … we had to get out there and punch them in the mouth.”
This, of course, being a game of Big Ten basketball, the contest’s pace unfolded much like that of a game of football between the two schools.
And Wisconsin – renowned for its often methodical, calculating play – did its best to ensure that the game would unravel in such a fashion.
For a while, the blueprint went as planned.
The highly-defensive game saw only five points scored in the first seven minutes of the game.
OSU (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) overcame a volley of 28, 3-pointer attempts from Wisconsin, which put its fate on its marksmanship from behind the arc.
Offensive fireworks were limited in the game’s first act as the score at halftime read, 26-24 in favor of the Badgers, which shot 6-for-16 from behind the arc in the opening period.
Conversely, OSU made just 1 of 2 long balls, but outscored Ryan’s squad, 14-8, in points in the paint.
The disparity in 3-point shots attempted between the two crews served as a harbinger for the game’s second half.
Ultimately, the Badgers’ affinity for the 3-point line cost them.
While the teams traded scores for the first 10 minutes of the second half, OSU managed to take a 2-point lead with 10:33 left in the game.
It was an advantage it never relinquished.
Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) continued its barrage of long shots before running into more than a 7-minute scoring drought at the game’s 13-minute mark.
As the Badgers’ shots clanked off iron, the Buckeyes rallied off a 15-0 run.
In the process, it changed the game’s once glacier-like pace.
“I can’t say we did anything special,” Craft said after the game. “That was one of those runs where you’re down two, and you look up and you’re up six or eight.”
Ryan attributed the rally to simple errors.
“Guys missed some assignments defensively and that allowed (OSU) to get some easy baskets,” he said.
Some of it had to do with OSU’s defense, too.
The Buckeyes flustered Wisconsin into shooting just 35 percent from the floor in the second half, forcing the Badgers to continue to settle for long jumpers.
“Wisconsin chose to shoot a lot of threes. I think we sometimes over-helped on defense,” Matta said.
Comparatively, OSU shot 64 percent in the second half, including a 2 of 3 outing from behind the arc.
In a tilt that saw seven lead changes, the Buckeyes built themselves a cushion in the final minutes before an emphatic last rebound by Craft sealed the game.
OSU is set to play Nebraska Saturday at 7 p.m. in Lincoln, Neb.