Defense disappears as No. 1 Buckeyes suffer first loss

BY foxsports • February 12, 2011

By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
February 11, 2011

Close calls in four or five of their 24 consecutive wins left a blueprint for future opponents on how to go about beating the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Wisconsin had to shoot the lights out to finish the deal. And shoot it the Badgers did.

Ohio State's run as the last unbeaten team in college basketball ended in a barrage of Wisconsin 3-pointers Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, one of the nation's toughest places to play and a place Buckeyes haven't won at in more than 10 years. There was some magic in there -- the Badgers came from 15 down in the second half to win -- but it was much more about Jordan Taylor and the four other Wisconsin players who scored from beyond the arc than it was about environment.

Defense is what helped Ohio State separate itself from the pack over the last several weeks and stay unbeaten until Saturday when -- suddenly and inexplicably -- that defense disappeared.

The final was 71-67. Ohio State had only given up 70 points once all season and won that game comfortably.

Taylor, who finished with 27 points and 7 assists, was mostly unguardable. Maybe it's that Kohl Center magic or maybe Wisconsin's point guard is just that good, but he scored even when he had a man in his face. He gave both Aaron Craft and David Lighty, OSU's two best defenders, fits. He set up his teammates for open looks and they knocked them down.

The Buckeyes led 47-32 with just more than 14 minutes left before a 15-0 run tied the game five minutes later. Wisconsin was 12 of 24 from the 3-point line in the game.

What had been a game of William Buford attacking and Jared Sullinger owning the paint became a game of the Buckeyes chasing Taylor. He started hitting. Josh Gasser (3-for-3 on 3-pointers) did, too. Ohio State didn't get Sullinger enough touches in the second half, but its inability to get stops was the real difference, all the way into the final 30 seconds when another wide-open shooter, Mike Bruesewitz, stuck a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game.

Wisconsin led early as it made 5 of its first 10 3-pointers and built a five-point lead. But Ohio State settled down, started making Wisconsin use too much of the shot clock to get a decent look at the basket and turned misses and miscues into chances to run. Lighty got hot. Sullinger was Sullinger (he finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds). As usual, Craft provided a spark at both ends.&

Maybe the legs got heavy. One of Ohio State's few flaws is a lack of depth; Sullinger and Buford never came out, and Lighty played 38 minutes. Maybe Taylor just is that good; he certainly looked it. Maybe -- and this is for another column altogether -- the loss will end up being good for the Buckeyes. Duke suffered its first loss at the Kohl Center last year and still won it all. Wisconsin has now won 10 straight against ranked teams in its own building.

The Badgers play defense. They're the nation's best free-throw shooting team. When they shoot from outside like they did Saturday, the 17,230 packed into the Kohl Center probably sound like 70,000.

Ohio State is still going to win the Big Ten championship and can still win the national championship. It probably will and definitely should maintain its No. 1 ranking when the new polls are released Monday. The Buckeyes' body of work is impressive. The roster is well-built and balanced. The pieces are in place to recover nicely and make a long run into the NCAA Tournament.

But future opponents have the blueprint. And the belief. It's going to be bombs away from beyond the arc, and the Buckeyes will go as deep as their defense allows.

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