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_