The Buckeyes nearly come back from 22-point deficit, but fall to Wisconsin, 73-67, in the regular season finale at Value City Arena.
Columbus – A nanosecond is one billionth of a second in time, and in that semi-blink of an eyeball Ohio State had to think it was about to bash in the door to the NCAA tournament and become the talk of college basketball all in one day.
But C.J. Jackson’s three-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation missed the rim by a good foot to the left.
Even more air escaped the balloon when Keyshawn Woods’ 60-foot plus heave-ho at the buzzer after an interception of an inbound pass grazed the bottom of the netting for no dice.
And the hunt for a spot in the “Big Dance’’ goes on.
Forward Khalil Iverson from Delaware had himself quite a senior day in coming home to total 22 points and 14 rebounds, including two go-ahead baskets in overtime, as Wisconsin slipped away with a 73-67 victory on Sunday afternoon before 18,231 at The Schott.
The Buckeyes nearly pulled off a public miracle in coming from 22 points down in the second half without suspended center Kaleb Wesson.
They still very much in the NCAA tournament discussion among hoop junkies.
“We’re on the bubble and you lose and you are out,’’ Woods said. “We don’t want no spring break.’’
If he’s true to his word, Chris Holtmann will go back to being one of the least informed coaches in America and not pay attention to anything bracket experts such as Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have to say or write.
“There reality is we certainly have something to play for,’’ Holtmann said. “I don’t follow those (bracket) things because it can wear you out. If we’re not good enough, we’re not good enough.’’
The Buckeyes (18-13, 8-12) will go into the Big Ten tournament as an eighth seed needing to beef up its resume with a victory over ninth-seeded Indiana (17-14, 8-12) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the United Center in Chicago.
They also might need a victory in a semifinal over co-conference champion Michigan State to avoid sweaty palms on selection Sunday. That’s how damaging consecutive losses to Purdue, Northwestern and now Wisconsin have been.
It was a strange Senior Day for Jackson, Woods, former walk-on Joey Lane and 2007 Final Four hero Greg Oden. Oden completed work on a degree and was honored.
Wisconsin (22-9, 14-6) appeared to be on its way to a laugher and the fourth seed in the conference tournament in taking a 26-16 lead at halftime on the strength of a 16-6 run.
The lead grew to 58-36 on a lay-up by the Badgers Brad Davison with 7:14 remaining.
What happened next was a meltdown by the Badgers and a band of undermanned misfits playing to the roar of the second largest crowd of the season.
“We made it way more interesting than I ever wanted it to be,’’ Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Credit Ohio State. We made some mistakes offensively. Some of if was them and some of it was self-inflicted at times. It’s never easy in this league.’’
The Buckeyes got the crowd interested after a fast break lay-up by Jackson that cut the deficit to 58-44 with 6:08 remaining.
The mausoleum of a building was rocking when Jackson hit a trey, Woods a drive off the break and Justin Ahrens of Versailles another trey to make it 63-59 with 2:06 left.
Twenty-one seconds later, with Wisconsin bringing the ball up court, a miniature scarlet and gray basketball rolled near mid-court.
Play was halted and an official asked Holtmann to take the microphone and tell the crowd to cool it.
“Please, don’t throw anything on the court, but keep getting louder,’’ he said.
And they did.
Backup forward Musa Jallow sneaked in a lay-up underneath the basket on a follow and Jackson tied it at 63 on a jumper in the paint with 36 seconds left.
“We fed off our defense,’’ Woods said. “We started getting turnovers and just pushed the ball. Once we went on that run the crowd got into it. We fed off our crowd. We all wanted it.’’
Wisconsin star center Ethan Happ was called for elbowing Jackson in setting a screen near mid-court with 29.5 seconds left, giving Ohio State the last shot in regulation.
Jackson’s shot never had a chance.
“He played back a little bit and I just rose up and shot it,’’ Jackson said. “It didn’t go as planned. If he was up on me, I would have dribbled. He was playing back and I thought I made the right read.’’
Woods and Holtmann thought Woods’ shot was dead on.
“It was on line to me,’’ Woods said.
Ohio State created momentum on the first possession of overtime when Ahrens blocked a shot by Happ from point-blank range.
But after a miss by the Buckeyes, Iverson had a tip-in and a lay-up in Jallow’s face to provide a 67-64 lead with 2:23 left in the five-minute period.
Holtmann was visibly drained in the interview room.
“I thought the crowd was unbelievable,’’ he said. “I thought our crowd was outstanding. You see (comebacks) sometimes when your backs are against the wall and that creates freedom. We were just going to roll with two of our three seniors.’’
He later said, “Man, did they show some serious guts in the second half.’’
It’s expected that an announcement on Kaleb Wesson’s status will be made on Tuesday. The university said he would return before the end of the season when his suspension was announced three days after a 90-70 victory over Iowa.
There’s no question Ohio State was on the verge of clinching a bid to the NCAAs at that point, but now there are questions as to whether the team has lost its mojo.
Are teammates bitter at Wesson? Will they welcome him back? Can he pick up where he left off?
Holtmann said “no one is feeling sorry for us, nor should they.’’
He said he has had “frequent’’ discussions with Wesson that have been “honest and direct.’’
“I love coaching the kid,’’ he said.
Last season, Holtmann lost patches of hair when the team was on the way to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten and getting into the NCAA tournament with ease.
These days, there has been angst over an inconsistent team shy on depth and talent.
“It has been really hard – miserable, it’s miserable,’’ Holtmann said. “You don’t sleep. You don’t eat. You are searching for answers in some ways.’’