For both Ohio State and Wisconsin, a Feb. 1 clash was a chance to reverse course, as each team came into this game really struggling. Thanks to late heroics from Aaron Craft and some sloppy Wisconsin play down the stretch, the Buckeyes emerged with a 59-58 win.
Craft scored all seven of his points in the final four minutes—he added four assists and four rebounds on the day while playing his normally stout defense—and Ohio State went on a 15-6 run in the last 7:15 to earn the win.
The Buckeyes spoiled a huge performance from Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, who finished with 17 points and five rebounds to pace the Badgers.
Ohio State nearly gave the game away late, however. After Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson missed a free throw with 17 seconds left that would have tied the game, Ohio State raced down the other end. Rather than peel back and take the foul, Lenzelle Smith attempted a layup, missed and slipped going up for the rebound, leading to a traveling call.
That gave the Badgers one last chance for the win, but they struggled to get a good shot up and Sam Dekker's desperation three didn't fall.
It was a huge win for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes came into this game having just lost to lowly Penn State in overtime, 71-70, their fifth loss in their past six games.
For Wisconsin, this loss is their fifth in six games, a far cry from when they were a Top Five team just three weeks ago.
Three-point shooting did the Badgers in, as they finished a woeful 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. It was the same old story for the Badgers, as Seth Davis of CBS Sports noted:
Wisconsin can't buy a three-point shot. Sound familiar? Buckeyes lead 44-43 under 12 time out second half of the Swoon Bowl.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 1, 2014
Hayes and Ben Brust (13 points, seven rebounds) spent much of the game bailing Wisconsin out. Hayes' performance in particular must have been hard for the Buckeyes to swallow, as Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports suggested:
Has to be especially painful for Ohio State to have Nigel Hayes go off today. Ohio kid the Buckeyes didn't recruit as hard as Wisconsin did.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) February 1, 2014
As Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports tweeted, Hayes simply presented too difficult a matchup for the Buckeyes defense:
Nigel Hayes is dominating,too good a shooter for a big man to guard, too big for a guard to cover him in the post @BadgerMBB— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) February 1, 2014
The game went back and forth throughout, though Wisconsin led for most of the first half and went into the break up 33-29. Ohio State had the half's best play, however, as Shannon Scott found Trey McDonald with a sweet pass between Frank Kaminsky's legs to set up the easy bucket.
Amedeo Della Valle (11 points) paced Ohio State off the bench in the early going, along with LaQuinton Ross (13 points), though the latter found himself in foul trouble late in the game. But that's when Craft kicked into high gear, as his three-pointer with four minutes remaining was not only his first score of the game, but also cut the Wisconsin lead to a point.
As Gottlieb noted, it came after Wisconsin simply didn't respect his ability to shoot from range:
Wisconsin going UNDER double high ball screen—ultimate lack of respect for Craft’s jumper—made it— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) February 1, 2014
While Craft managed to find his game late, Wisconsin's leading scorer, Dekker, came up short with a chance for the win. He finished with just four points and four rebounds on the afternoon.
|Lenzelle Smith Jr.||G||D+|
Ohio State travels to No. 15 Iowa on Feb. 4, while Wisconsin has a road game against Illinois that same evening.