No. 23 Wisconsin takes advantage of ice-cold shooting from No. 13 Ohio State in win


There are two key ways to beat Ohio State: 1) Force Deshaun Thomas to be the lone offensive option and dare some other Buckeye to beat you. 2) Keep up the offensive pressure and make shots, which stops Ohio State from turning defense into offense. Happen to do both in the same game and the end result looks something like Sunday afternoon in Madison.

No. 23 Wisconsin held Ohio State to just 37 percent shooting from the floor while shooting 54 percent themselves, on their way to a 71-49 win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin.

The Badgers saw open looks on the offensive end for much of the first half and converted. Dribble penetration opened up shots on the perimeter for Ben Brust, who finished with 15 points, and Sam Dekkar, who had 13. Those two were integral to an 18-0 run that grew the Wisconsin lead to 24-6 with 9:22 to play in the first.

That was aided by their defensive efforts, which isolated Deshaun Thomas and forced Ohio State to look to other offensive options, which were ultimately not there.

Wisconsin played a game of numbers and won. It’s difficult to completely eliminated Deshaun Thomas. His 18 points are a testament to that. But Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Aaron Craft, and LaQuinton Ross combined to shoot 5-of-21 from the floor. The Badgers made someone else beat them and on Sunday and no one did.

That should raise a red flag for Ohio State, as it has all season. Other Big Ten teams at the top of the conference like Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana all have multiple legitimate scoring options. The Buckeyes have not shown that they do.

As for Wisconsin moving forward, they finally cracked into the Top 25 this week and will continue to move up. This efficiency and defensive pressure could carry them far, but it depends on if they make shots. Its not every game that they will hang 39 points on a team in the first half or that the opponent’s cold shooting will spur the offense.

Because of that, it will come back down to defense. Can the Badgers make the offense click enough to complement what the defense brings? They have a favorable final five games. Of those, only No. 8 Michigan State should be a concern. They’ll likely be favored against Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.

No. 25 Texas A&M outlasts No. 10 Gonzaga

Billy Kennedy
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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No. 25 Texas A&M made a statement on Turkey Day, as they knocked off No. 10 Gonzaga 62-61 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Danuel House led the way with 19 points for the Aggies while Tony Trocha-Morales finished with 14 points as Texas A&M picked up the win despite the fact that they did not score for the final eight minutes of the game.

Billy Kennedy’s club looked the part of an SEC contender, playing tough defense and keeping Gonzaga’s massive and talented front line in check. Perhaps most impressive was that they were able to hang on despite blowing a lead late in the second half, and that they did it with their defense. Gonzaga can score. They have big bodies inside and shooters to surround them, but Domantas Sabonis struggled with foul struggle throughout the game while Kyle Wiltjer did not score in the final 12 minutes.

Kentucky, at this point, is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC, and while Vanderbilt looked really good in Maui this week, A&M looks like they’re going to end up giving the Commodores a run for their money for second-best in the league.

On the other hand, this loss wasn’t a total disaster for the Zags. They had the final possession with a chance to be a good team on a day when Domantas Sabonis was rendered completely ineffective. And, more importantly, point guard Josh Perkins was terrific. He did have a late turnover, but he scored all 15 of his points in the second half as he helped keep the Zags within striking distance.

Texas A&M will play the winner of Syracuse and No. 18 UConn for the title.