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February 4, 2012MADISON -- There would be no Jordan Taylor-fueled comeback victory this time. No students rushing the Kohl Center court.
While the Badgers kept it close throughout, never trailing the Buckeyes by more than seven points, OSU always seemed to be in control and UW could never get over the hump and take the lead back in the second half.
Once the lead had been cut to one point late, Wisconsin looked to be in position to grab the upset victory over No. 3 Ohio State. Instead, UW struggled down the stretch and a big 3-point shot by William Buford helped OSU escape Saturday with the 58-52 victory.
"I'm going to state the obvious. It's a great win," said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. "When you look at how many times we and a lot of other teams come in here and gone home without a win. It definitely was a good win for our program."
With their hard-fought victory, the Buckeyes snapped a nine-game losing streak in Madison, winning at the Kohl Center for the first time since Jan. 13, 2000. Wisconsin also had its six-game winning streak snapped.
It also marked the first time in Bo Ryan's 11 years at UW the Badgers have lost four home games in a single season.
In a battle of the nation's top two defenses, the differences in the game were Buckeyes' success scoring inside and the Badgers' outside shooting struggles.
Jared Sullinger went 6-of-8 in the first half along with four free throws, giving him 16 points as Ohio State led by four at the break. Deshaun Thomas also added eight points in the first half as the two combined for seven boards.
"Yeah, you could say that," Ryan said when asked if the Buckeyes got the ball inside too easily in the first half. "I'm not going to sell out any particular players or anything, but if anybody thinks that's what we said we were going to do coming into that game, then you weren't at practices watching what's going on."
Wisconsin switched things up in the second half, with Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz combining to limit Sullinger's post touches.
Despite being a better matchup based on his size, Jared Berggren played just 10 minutes in the second half after his early defensive struggles.
"He's hard to stop," Berggren said of Sullinger. "A lot of it came early on. I let him get going and I've got to take a little blame on myself for that one.
"The plan never changed, we still tried to limit his touches. I think we just did such a bad job in the first half that the second half looked a little better in comparison."
While the Badgers had trouble keeping the ball away from Sullinger inside on the defensive end, they struggled just as much to get their own inside looks on the offensive end.
Wisconsin created a lot of open looks on the perimeter, but they weren't falling. UW shot 5-of-27 from outside, including an 0-for-14 stretch between their second and third made 3-pointers of the game.
It wasn't the first time this year that outside shooting struggles have hurt the Badgers, and it is not likely to be the last, either. When they're knocking those shots down, Ryan's team is tough to beat, but when Wisconsin is off the mark, it makes for a tough night.
"When we're hitting 'em, we can look pretty good on the offensive end," Ryan said. "I thought they shut off stuff going to the rim, and so then you've got to go to what's next. And that's either kick across, kick out. I liked the looks."
But one of the biggest differences between Saturday's game and a year ago was the lack of offense from Taylor.
After struggling early last year, the Wisconsin point guard scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half to fuel the Badgers' thrilling comeback. This time around, much like their meeting in Columbus last season, Aaron Craft did an excellent job defensively, limiting Taylor to just 12 points, seven of which came in the second half.
"I'm kind of disappointed," Taylor said of his performance. "I just felt like I could've made more shots, been more aggressive in earlier in the second half. But there's nothing you can do about it now."