Josh Gasser said this week Wisconsin’s players want to be remembered this season as having one of the best teams in program history. Consider Sunday’s blowout victory at Ohio State a statement that bolsters such a notion.
No. 6 Wisconsin obliterated No. 23 Ohio State, 72-48, at Value City Arena to close regular season play. The Badgers scored 14 consecutive second-half points to turn a seven-point lead into a laugher. UW (27-3, 16-2) put Ohio State (22-9, 11-7) into its largest deficit of the season and demonstrated why the Badgers are among the favorites to win a national championship.
1 big moment: Ohio State trimmed its deficit to 46-39 on Jae’Sean Tate’s three-point play with 12:59 remaining in the second half. But Wisconsin quickly put together a devastating 14-0 run that showcased just how talented this Badgers team truly is as the NCAA tournament approaches.
Badgers point guard Bronson Koenig buried consecutive 3-pointers to push Wisconsin ahead by 13 points. Then came layups by Koenig, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. And in the span of 5 minutes, 31 seconds of game clock, the Badgers had crushed the Buckeyes’ will en route to establishing the largest lead against Ohio State in any game this season.
2 top performances: Kaminsky made yet another national player of the year statement on a big stage by finishing with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-13 field-goal shooting. Yes, Kaminsky registered a career-high five turnovers, but he also tallied three assists, five rebounds, one block and one steal. Sunday marked Kaminsky’s 10th 20-point performance in his last 15 games played.
— Several candidates deserve recognition here, but Koenig gets the nod for scoring eight consecutive points during Wisconsin’s 14-0 run. In the process, Wisconsin turned a seven-point lead in a 15-point lead, 54-39. Koenig has been sensational since taking over for Traevon Jackson as the Badgers’ starting point guard, and he’ll enter postseason play with a world of confidence. He finished Sunday’s game with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. Dekker added 10 points and eight rebounds, while Nigel Hayes finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
3 key stats: If one knock on Wisconsin existed entering the postseason, it was the Badgers’ lack of offensive production off the bench. But Sunday’s game may have gone a long way toward quelling the fears of Badgers fans.
The bench rotation of Duje Dukan, Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown combined for 12 first-half points, while Ohio State’s bench scored nothing as Wisconsin established a 37-23 halftime lead. For the game, Wisconsin’s bench outscored Ohio State’s bench 14-2, led by Duje Dukan’s seven points. If Jackson is able to return from his broken right foot in time for the NCAA tournament, expect the Badgers’ bench to turn into a much more consistent force.
— Buckeyes freshman D’Angelo Russell, one of the top players in the country, paced Ohio State with 17 points Sunday. But he also connected on only 7 of 18 field goal attempts (38.9 percent) while scoring five first-half points. He finished with five turnovers as well and was hounded by Gasser, a two-time Big Ten all-defensive team honoree. Russell entered the game hitting 46.2 percent of his field goal tries and averaging 19.3 points per game.
— Wisconsin held Ohio State to an astounding 29 points below its season scoring average (76.9 points). Ohio State’s previous season low was 55 points in a 64-55 loss at Louisville on Dec. 2. The Buckeyes’ lowest scoring output at home before Sunday was 65 points.
Said: "It’s never easy to win on the road. They got the lead down to I think six points and we made some big plays, and it kind of blew the game open for us. Once we figured out the turnover situation and got good shots and everything, it just helped us immensely." — Kaminsky
"Duje stepped up early and had some points, was playing good defense. Bronson in the second half hit some big shots for us. We’re just playing well right now. I’m excited about the tournament we have in front of us, and we’ll see what happens." — Kaminsky
Next: Wisconsin earned the No. 1 seed and a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament and will open quarterfinal play at the United Center in Chicago at 11 a.m. CT Friday. UW will play the winner of the No. 8 Illinois/No. 9 Michigan game. Michigan (15-15, 8-10) lost at home against Wisconsin, 69-64, in overtime. Illinois (19-12, 9-9) lost to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, 68-49, in the team’s only regular season matchup.