Ohio State’s two-man show leads it to a win at Wisconsin

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Want to hear a crazy stat?

Before this season, Bo Ryan had lost just 11 games at the Kohl Center while head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. His record in Big Ten play? 78-6. In ten years.

This season has been a completely different story, however. Thanks to Ohio State’s 58-52 win on Saturday afternoon, the Badgers have now lost four times at the Kohl Center, with three of them coming during Big Ten play. Think about that. We’re not even two-thirds of the way through the conference season and the Badgers have already lost half as many conference home games as they did in the last decade.

Today’s loss put Wisconsin is a major hole in the Big Ten title race. They are now sitting a game and a half behind the Buckeyes, two games in the loss column. That puts them in fourth place for now (they’ll be, at worst, tied for third pending the outcome of second place Michigan taking on third place Michigan State tomorrow) with an 0-3 record against the top three teams. If that’s not enough, the Badgers still have to play at Michigan State and make a return trip to Columbus, and while it may be easy to say Wisconsin is a better road team than home team this season, they did lose to Michigan 59-41 on the road.

The math says its unlikely Wisconsin makes a late-season run, regardless of what Kenpom tells us.

What happened on the court backs that line of thinking up.

As expected, this was an ugly game from the moment the ball was tipped. Wisconsin has an innate ability to do that to a basketball game. They play as slow and patient as anyone in the country, and they don’t attack the offensive glass all that hard, making it difficult to get out on the break with numbers. The Badgers are also the second-best defensive team in the country in terms of efficiency, which means that without the benefit of easy transition buckets, every point you get against Wisconsin is going to be earned through offensive execution.

But Ohio State isn’t too shabby, either. They are actually leading the country in defensive efficiency, and while they prefer to get out and run more than the Badgers do, this group can thrive in the half court. Ask Michigan, who lost 64-49 to the Buckeyes in a 59 possession game.

The Buckeyes didn’t have a bench player even attempt a single field goal. Starters Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith went just 2-5 from the floor, combining for seven points. William Buford had 11 points, but he shot 4-15 from the field. That leaves Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State’s starting front court. This was, quite literally, a two-man show for Ohio State and Wisconsin could do nothing to stop it.

Sullinger finished with 24 points (16 coming in the first half) and 10 boards. Thomas had 16 points and six boards. They combined for more than half of Ohio State’s rebounds — all of the their offensive rebounds — and more than two-thirds of the scoring. Wisconsin simply had no answer inside.

But we knew they would have no answer. We knew they had no interior presence. Wisconsin makes up for that with the three ball and Jordan Taylor. But Taylor was controlled today by Craft — I say controlled because he finished with a tough 12 points and six assists but three turnovers — while the Badgers shot 5-27 from three. When they don’t shoot well, they don’t win games.

The Badgers have lost six games on the season. In those six games, they are shooting 22.9% (33-144) from three. In their 18 wins, the Badgers are 40.7% (146-359) from deep.

If Wisconsin has any hopes of making a run at the Big Ten crown, they better figure out a way to become more consistent shooting the three.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.