MADISON, Wis. — Ohio State coach Thad Matta watched Wisconsin’s loss to Purdue and wondered the chances the Badgers would shoot that way again.
Turns out not great.
The 18th-ranked Badgers bounced back from that poor performance four days earlier to blitz Ohio State 89-66 on Thursday night as they shot 49 percent from the field and a season-best 55 percent from the 3-point line.
“It’s proven we’re like a get-well card for teams shooting the basketball,” Matta said. Everyone shot 41 percent or better in the four-game losing streak to open Big Ten play.
Perhaps no Badger embodied that bounce back better than Bronson Koenig. The team’s leading scorer at 14 points a game, he was 3 of 8 against the Boilermakers and 1 of 4 from the 3-point line. Things did not start well as he missed his first three shots, but then he caught fire. He hit 7 of his final 9 attempts and finished with 21 points in just 27 minutes on the court.
“I tried not to fall into that trap of deferring, and that’s what I did,” Koenig said of his early struggles. “I stayed on the attack and stayed aggressive.”
As a team, Wisconsin (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) shot 39 percent from the field on Sunday, including just 2 of 14 from 3-point range, as Purdue snapped the Badgers’ nine-game winning streak. Wisconsin had no such troubles with the Buckeyes (10-7, 0-4), especially because the Badgers seemed to rebound everything they missed.
Playing its third straight game without Keita Bates-Diop, who’s out for the season with a stress fracture in his leg, Ohio State allowed Wisconsin to turn 21 offensive rebounds into 28 second-chance points.
Overall, Wisconsin outrebounded the Buckeyes 44-31, and Matta said his team “just didn’t have it” on the boards, expressing disappointment in his team’s fight after the Badgers started to pull away in the first half.
JaQuan Lyle led the Buckeyes with 13 points.
“We just caved in,” Matta said.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said Jim Calhoun, the former Connecticut coach who served as a color commentator for Thursday’s broadcast, visited the Badgers’ practice Wednesday night and preached spacing and movement on offense leads to rebounding. He said Wisconsin’s 21 offensive rebounds were a byproduct of taking that to heart.
“It’s the best we’ve moved without the ball in a while,” Gard said.
Nigel Hayes added 15 points for Wisconsin, while Vitto Brown scored 12.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes dropped to 0-4 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1997-98, when they finished 1-15 in the conference. What’s more, their only wins since mid-December are against Youngstown State and UNC-Asheville.
Wisconsin: The Badgers came in hitting just over 35 percent of their 3-point attempts. It’s well established Wisconsin has a strong inside game with Hayes, Ethan Happ and others. When the Badgers are this hot from the outside, though, they’re at a different level.
Wisconsin took control of the game in the first half after a stretch of four straight Ohio State makes. The Buckeyes then hit 1 of their next 9 field goal attempts as Wisconsin went on a 21-6 run that turned a 19-16 edge into a 40-22 lead.
Wisconsin announced Thursday starting in the 2017-18 season, the Kohl Center court will be named Ab Nicholas Court in honor of the former Badger who played from 1950-52 and made significant donations to the university. A banner featuring his No. 8 was unveiled and raised to the rafters above the Wisconsin bench during a halftime ceremony. “I don’t know if I’ve been around somebody who loved this program and loved this university more than Ab did,” Gard said.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes host Michigan State on Sunday.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are off until Tuesday, when they host Michigan.