MADISON, Wis. (AP) Bo Ryan made a point to Jon Leuer, sending him to the bench for most of the first half.
Then Leuer made his points in the second half.
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Playing without their leading scorer on the floor, No. 23 Wisconsin (11-2) still managed to build a big lead on No. 15 Ohio State. The Badgers maintained the defensive pressure in the second half, pulling away to a 65-43 victory Thursday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
“I was really enjoying my spot on the bench watching them,” Leuer said. “I felt like a fan, cheering them on.”
Wisconsin held Ohio State (10-3) to a season-low 32.6 percent shooting.
It was the first step in a punishing opening stretch to Big Ten play for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are without star Evan Turner because of a back injury and must play four of their first five conference games on the road.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta clearly misses Turner – “I’ve tried to stop thinking about it,” he said – but said the Buckeyes just have to get better during his absence.
“I felt like they had their way with us,” Matta said.
Trevon Hughes led the Badgers with 16 points and seven rebounds while Jordan Taylor added 12 points.
With Leuer on the bench, the Badgers kept the game under control.
“They did what they had to do to pick up Jon’s slack,” Hughes said.
Leuer’s play has been a pleasant surprise for the Badgers. Still, Ryan said he was “unsettled” by the way Leuer picked up his quick two fouls Thursday. The coach sent him to the bench for most of the first half, but it didn’t matter to the Badgers.
“Guys just said ‘Jon who?,'” Ryan said. “Not really, but that’s life. Things like that are going to happen. What are you going to do: ‘Oh, geez, we don’t have Jon?'”
Ohio State stumbled through a scoreless streak of nearly five minutes in the first half, falling behind 28-12. The Badgers went on a 14-0 run that included 3-pointers by Hughes, Rob Wilson and Keaton Nankivil on three straight possessions.
“It was the game,” Matta said.
Leuer immediately made his presence known in the second half, hitting a 3-pointer on the Badgers’ first possession.
He went on to score 11 points during Wisconsin’s 16-5 run in the first eight minutes of the second half.
“That’s even-keel Jon, he doesn’t change: ‘OK, I’ll be ready,'” Ryan said.
Ohio State, meanwhile, just couldn’t shoot its way back into the game.
Wisconsin’s defense held Jon Diebler to eight points and David Lighty to 10 points, and both players shot 2 for 7 from the floor.
“I think they kind of metaphorically threw the first punch and we didn’t respond,” Diebler said.
Diebler and Lighty are the Buckeyes’ top scorers behind Turner. Lighty had a career-high 30 points in Ohio State’s Dec. 22 win over Cleveland State.
“We got looks, we got wide-open looks at the basket,” Lighty said. “Easy layups, wide-open 3s, I mean they just weren’t falling for us. Give them credit, too, they played real good defense and frustrating us rebounding and things of that nature.”
William Buford scored 14 points to lead Ohio State, but appeared to hurt his leg in the second half. Matta didn’t seem to think the injury was serious, saying Buford just bumped knees with another player.
About the only bright spot Matta could find was the Buckeyes’ mini-run at the end of the first half. Ohio State outscored Wisconsin 8-2 to cut the Badgers’ lead to 34-25 at the break.