A defensive basketball slugfest between the Buckeyes and Badgers turned into a shootout during the final moments.
After a few traded blows, Wisconsin (9-5, 2-1 Big Ten) handed No. 5 Ohio State (11-3, 1-2) its second straight loss 61-57 Friday in the Schottenstein Center.
“We’ve got to get back in the gym and practice these situations,” Ohio State junior forward Kaleb Wesson said. “Things like these come down to preparation. Older guys keeping their poise and everything like that. I feel like tonight they took us out of some of our stuff.”
Wesson was the Buckeyes’ leading beacon of light, mounting 22 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard DuaneWashington finished with 18, but went 6-for-19 from the field.
Wisconsin junior forward Nate Reuvers led the way for his squad with 17 points.
Reuvers put the Badgers ahead 52-51 on a layup with 1:47 remaining. Redshirt senior guard Brevin Pritzl piled on with a 3 seconds later.
Washington responded with a 3 as the clock ticked to 57 seconds, cutting the lead to one at 55-54.
The Badgers missed on the other end, but an offensive rebound followed by a foul placed redshirt junior D’Mitrik Trice at the line against a roaring crowd.
He, and one possession later Reuves, nailed Ohio State’s coffin and the charity shots.
“[We] haven’t been in a lot of close games,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think that’s been the one difference, is we have not had a lot of one-, two-possession games, late in games.”
Wesson finished the first half with a near double-double at 10 points and nine rebounds, knocking back the 6-foot-11 Reuvers for his final board. He exited with 4:26 to play in the half after picking up his second foul, an over-the-back call Holtmann argued vehemently.
Wesson manufactured many of his points in the paint, making only one three against the Badgers. Holtmann said after Wisconsin started collapsing on him, there were fewer looks down the stretch.
“They do a good job fronting the post and creating difficult angles to feed the post, and playing on the high side. They were able to get him a few times,” Holtmann said. “But listen, in today’s college game, they can do everything but tackle you across the lane and it not get called. So we’ve got to figure out a way to play better in those situations.”
Regardless, Wisconsin gained control following the substitution. After their second case of back-to-back 3s, this time from redshirt junior guards Trevor Anderson and Aleem Ford, the Badgers led 29-25 at halftime.
Wesson finished 4-for-4 from the field in the first 20 minutes. The rest of the team finished 23.8 percent from the field and 10 percent from behind the arc, making Ohio State’s shooting woes the story of the first half.
They weren’t the story to start the second.
The Buckeyes exited the locker room and entered a 13-2 run, grabbing a 38-31 lead thanks to a quartet of scorers.
“I’m confident we’ve got guys that can step up, and not be so reliant on Kaleb,” Holtmann said. “But he generated a lot on offense tonight.”
Still, the Badgers didn’t go away.
Nine straight Ohio State points were scored by Wesson, bringing his total to 20 with more than nine minutes to play, but Wisconsin was throwing punches of its own. Following five straight points from redshirt sophomore guard Kobe King, redshirt senior guard Brevin Pritzl knocked home a layup to cut the lead to 45-44.
King evened the tally at 47 after a runaway lay-in.
Wesson and Washington strung together four points, but Wisconsin freshman forward Tyler Wahl pulled an up-and-under move to cut the lead back to 51-49 with 4:12 to play.
The loss is the second straight for Ohio State, and its second to an unranked opponent after three top-10 wins earlier this season.
Ohio State moves forward to play No. 15 Maryland Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the road.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround,” Wesson said. “That’s the game we’ve gotta prepare for at a high level and that’s what we’re gonna do.”