Do-everything center Frank Kaminsky called it a statement game. If that’s the case, then the point clearly was: Watch out for Wisconsin.
Kaminsky scored 20 points and Bronson Koenig touched off a 16-0 second-half run with two 3-pointers to help the sixth-ranked Badgers cruise to a 72-48 victory over No. 23 Ohio State on Sunday.
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"This was kind of a statement game for us going into the Big Ten tournament, beating a good team on their home floor," said Kaminsky, a 7-foot senior who’s a leading candidate for National Player of the Year. "We’re really excited about what’s next."
The Badgers (28-3, 16-2) had already clinched the regular-season title and top seed in the conference tournament. In a hostile environment, they tied a school record for league wins while extending the best start in team history.
"I’m proud of them," coach Bo Ryan said. "You look at the last four games that we had and we knew that we had to get at least two of them to clinch it and we get three out of the four."
Koenig, averaging 7.6 points, had 15 and Nigel Hayes scored 10 for Wisconsin, winners of three in a row and 13 of 14.
Down by as many as 17 points, the Buckeyes (22-9, 11-7) pulled to 46-39 on a 9-0 run with D’Angelo Russell, who finished with 17, scoring the first six points and then passing inside to Jae’Sean Tate, who had 13, for a three-point play.
But on consecutive possessions — the Badgers had three offensive rebounds on the second one — Koenig hit timely 3-pointers from the same spot on the left wing in front of the Wisconsin bench.
"Huge," Ryan said. "That’s Bronson. He’s a gamer, no question about that."
After Ohio State missed a shot, Koenig drove the lane to make it 54-39. Sam Dekker and Kaminsky each added two more baskets to complete the 16-0 run that took more than five minutes and finally ended when Russell hit a jumper with 7:12 left. The Buckeyes never threatened again.
"That’s discouraging," said Shannon Scott, who scored 10 points in his final home game. "We wanted to win this game and they blew us out."
In the final minute the student section chanted "One more year!" to Russell, a freshman widely expected to go in the top few picks of the NBA Draft.
The home loss was coach Thad Matta’s first in March at Ohio State after going 13-0.
"You have games like this, where nothing seems to work," Matta said.
The crowd of 18,077 at least had something to cheer about at halftime —even though it wasn’t basketball.
Members of Ohio State’s national championship football team, including running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebacker Joshua Perry, joined a dance troupe during the break. They received a standing ovation.
The Badgers thoroughly dominated every aspect of the game and it was mirrored in the final statistics. They held a 41-27 rebounding advantage, shot 50 percent from the field (31 of 62) to Ohio State’s 34 percent (18 of 53) and received 14 points off the bench to two for the Buckeyes.
Wisconsin: April could be a huge month for Ryan and the Badgers — if, of course, March is also a successful month.
Ryan is one of 12 finalists for induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. The class of 2015 will be announced on April 6 — the same day as the national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Ohio State: Matta fell short in an attempt to become Ohio State’s winningest coach. He came in tied with Hall of Famer Fred Taylor with 297 wins.
The late Taylor was 297-158 (.653) in 18 seasons from 1959-76, winning the 1961 national championship with a team led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. Matta came into the game with a mark of 297-91 (.765) in 11 years at Ohio State. His teams have averaged 27 wins a year.
But now he’ll have to wait until the Big Ten tournament to possibly break the tie.
Wisconsin: The Badgers play the winner of eighth-seeded Illinois and No. 9 seed Michigan in the Big Ten tournament on Friday at noon at United Center in Chicago.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes, seeded sixth, meet the winner of 14th-seeded Rutgers and either Northwestern or Minnesota at 9 p.m. on Thursday night.