If there was a time to do it in Madison, it would be this year, as the 20th-ranked Badgers seem to have lost their Kohl Center mojo.
The Buckeyes leveraged solid play from blue-chip big man Jared Sullinger, who finished with 24 points and three steals while pulling down 10 huge boards for his squad. Flat-top forward Ryan Evans finished with a Badger-high 14 points, but no combination of players could truly neutralize Ohio State's front line.
Wisconsin suffered its fourth loss at the Kohl Center, a citadel for the Badgers in recent years. They looked to extend their win streak against the Thad Matta-led Buckeyes to 10 straight, but instead saw their season record drop to 18-6, 7-4 in the Big Ten.
Five of the Badgers' last six games have been decided by three buckets or less, and the Buckeyes have been unable to overcome Wisconsin teams, often overmatched on paper, in Madison. First place was up for grabs, with the Badgers ranked second behind Big Ten leader Ohio State, but the Buckeyes maintained their dominance over the conference with the hard-scrabbled win.
The Badgers followed their traditional slow-and-low tendencies, but the Buckeyes seemed better prepared to deal with the their one-dimensional attack. Wisconsin was haggard from behind the arc, shooting 5-for-25 in a cold first-half effort.
The battle of the Jareds didn't live up to the hype, but was solid nonetheless. The Buckeyes' Jared had the better day, but Badger Jared Berggren finished with a respectable 10 points and three rebounds. The Badgers showed their normal penchant for stifling defense, limiting the Buckeyes to 21 points below their 77.3 season average.
Either way, the Buckeyes were happy to exit Madison with their first win since 2000.
Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft kept Jordan Taylor in check most of the game with Taylor only delivering 12 points. He was unable to pull off his late-game heroics of last year that saw him bring the then-No. 1 Buckeyes to their knees. Taylor protected the ball against the pickpocketing savant in Craft, but couldn’t convert his selfish ways into many points for his team.
Taylor tried to rekindle the fire he displayed in besting the Buckeyes last season when he hit a running bank shot to start a rally that pulled Wisconsin within four with 6:09 left in the game. A bonus free-throw point precipitated a blocking foul by Sullinger, his third foul of the game, but the Badgers couldn't take advantage of his precarious situation and get him off the floor.
Mike Bruesewitz had a big block on Sullinger with four minutes and followed it up with a three-pointer to bring the Badgers within one. That's the closest they would get, though, as the Buckeyes held off the Badger surge.
Sullinger had 16 points and five boards in the first half, and Bo Ryan couldn't find a proportionate response for his dominance after the break. Ohio State's big man had a measure of revenge, accusing Badger fans of spitting on him after his team's loss last year in Wisconsin.
The loss is Wisconsin’s first in seven games, which still keeps them in the top third of the conference.