Buckeyes Snap 9-Game Streak as Matta Gets First Win at Kohl
By Brandon Castel
The last time Ohio State won a game at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin, the Buckeyes were led by Michael Redd, Scoonie Penn and Ken Johnson. Jared Sullinger was seven years old and Thad Matta was still an assistant coach at Butler University.
That is how tough it has been for Ohio State in that arena, where the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes (20-3, 8-2) finally snapped a nine-game road losing streak with a 58-52 victory over the 20th-ranked Badgers (18-5, 7-3) on Saturday.
Matta has the best winning percentage in the Big Ten since he took over the OSU basketball program in 2004, but he was winless in Madison before Saturday’s game in Madison.
Sullinger, who had his own issues with playing at the Kohl Center a year ago, led the Buckeyes with 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half. Ohio State led Wisconsin 28-24 at the break, despite the fact only three of Matta’s players had scored in the game.
The Buckeyes did not hit their first three of the game until there were less than two minutes left to play, but it was a big one. Senior William Buford came off a screen and knocked down a big-time shot from behind the arc to give Ohio State a 54-50 lead with 1:49 to play.
Buford had 11 points, but was only 4-of-15 shooting, including 1-of-4 behind the arc. He had six rebounds, but also made a few key turnovers down the stretch that allowed Wisconsin to stay in the game.
The Badgers took 20 more three point shots (27-7) than Ohio State, but made just five of them as they struggled to find a good look against Ohio State’s defense. Wisconsin also had only three free throw attempts, while Ohio State was 13-of-16 from the charity stripe.
Sullinger had eight of those makes on 10 tries from the line, and also led the Buckeyes with 10 rebounds and three steals. Sullinger had 19 points and 12 rebounds in Madison last year, as the OSU nearly had their first victory at the Kohl Center since Jan. 13, 2000.
The Buckeyes were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. They held a 47-32 lead in the second half, but the Badgers rattled off a 28-8 run behind 27 points and seven assists from Jordan Taylor.
Wisconsin’s point guard was held in check this time around, scoring only 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He also had six assists, but turned the ball over three times.
Ohio State led by seven points at the under-eight minute timeout in the second half, but Wisconsin to make it a 51-50 game.
The Badgers had not been ahead since leading 20-19 in the first half, and the Buckeyes would keep it that way. Sullinger came up with a big steal and Buford buried the critical three—Ohio State’s first and only make from long range.
Sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. drew an important charge and Ohio State held on for a 58-52 victory. It was their first in the last 10 tries at the Kohl Center and the first of Matta’s OSU coaching career. Matta did register a win at the Kohl Center in January of 2001 as the head coach at Butler Universtiy.
With his 24 points, Sullinger became 48th Buckeye in program history to score 1,000 points in his career, and fellow sophomore Deshaun Thomas chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds.
Ohio State plays the next two games back in Columbus, where they will host Purdue (15-7, 5-4) on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Michigan State (17-5, 6-3) next Saturday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN).
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