They had ten first-half turnovers, played sketchy defense, and Kaleb Wesson had an off game. It all worked together to end the Buckeyes’ winning streak at three games.
Columbus – It was during the first minutes of the first half when anyone with any kind of basketball IQ knew Ohio State players were carrying themselves like students slogging to class with bed heads and wearing flip-flops and pajamas.
The Buckeyes weren’t close to being ready to play against a Wisconsin team that simply eats up people and swallows them whole in the Kohl Center.
It began with center Kaleb Wesson getting blocked by former practice sparring partner Micah Potter on the first possession and kept going and going.
The next time up court was a shot clock violation. Then it was an air ball by Wesson, a turnover by Kyle Young, missed shot on a follow from point-blank range by Wesson and a traveling violation by EJ Liddell.
Things didn’t get any better as Wisconsin knocked in 12 treys – five from substitute Brevin Pritzl – and received an astounding 30 points off the bench to run over Ohio State 70-57 on Sunday.
What happened to the Buckeyes (15-8, 6-7) was death in the afternoon by their own hand. They put themselves in a catch-up mode with 10 first-half turnovers. Their largest deficit was 24 points with 7 minutes 51 seconds remaining.
“I think it was really from the start,’’coach Chris Holtmann said of the team’s malaise on his post-game show on WBNS (97.1). “I just didn’t feel like we had enough stuff to us to beat a good team on the road. I thought we came out not tough enough. It came about in a lot of different ways.’’
Holtmann was asked if the players came in too casual in having won three straight games, including two on the road.
“I don’t know what to make of that,’’ he said. “We were just talking about that a little bit. I know it wasn’t because we were fatigued. We just got beat by a team that played a lot better today. We did not have a good enough effort to be competitive on the road.’’
Captain Andre Wesson did say that lack of effort was a problem. The team looked similar in losses at Minnesota and Indiana.
“Effort was definitely part of the problem,’’ he said. “We just have to get better at that.’’
History reads loud and clear that the Badgers (14-10, 7-6) would be a handful. This was their 13th victory in the last 15 home games against the Buckeyes.
This game was something of a replay of road losses by 12 points to Maryland and Indiana, by 13 to Minnesota and by 14 to Penn State.
Wisconsin lacks four and five-star recruits, but has great determination. Despite Brad Davison being suspended for a flagrant foul at Iowa and guard Kobe King entering the transfer portal, it manned up to defeat Michigan State 64-63 nine days ago.
For just a tiny stretch it appeared that Ohio State would right itself when Kaleb Wesson had a put-back for a 15-12 lead with 8:46 left in the first half.
The Badgers scored the next eight points and never stopped dealing to take a 38-20 lead at halftime.
The 11-0 run to end the half was devastating with Aleem Ford backing in for a lay-up against Justin Ahrens, D’Mitrik Trice hitting a trey from the side, Pritzl a three from the baseline and Nate Reuvers two free throws.
Just one of many examples of the Buckeyes being out of sorts came when Reuvers, who is 6 feet 11, was fouled taking a fading jumper by 6-3 Luther Muhammad with 1.4 seconds left.
It’s almost always the case with this team that so goes Kaleb Wesson, so goes Ohio State, and the big man was off kilter in going 2-for-11 shooting, including 0-for-4 from three-point range. He totaled eight points and six rebounds.
A lot of it had to do with the Buckeyes having no one after Wesson to combat Wisconsin’s size and length. Potter started for the first time since his Buckeye days in November 2017, and he and Reuvers shut down the inside game from the start.
It was the second time Potter was a factor in beating his former team with nine points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in 23 minutes.
As for the Badgers three-point barrage, that’s to be expected. Ohio State ranks 190th out of 200 Division I teams in three-point field goal percentage defense at 33.2 percent.
“We didn’t defend well enough,’’ Andre Wesson said. “They were getting a lot of shots. They were comfortable at home. We talked about it. You have to make them work. They got into a rhythm.’’
Wesson said there is a lack of connectivity among the players guarding the three-pointer.
Also to be expected, whether it’s home or away, are the turnovers. The Buckeyes had been averaging 13.7 per game, and only 30 teams nationally were worse.
There’s no reason for fans to panic because two of the worst road teams in the Big Ten are coming up in Rutgers (1-4 in conference) on Wednesday and Purdue (1-5) on Saturday.
Ohio State still is on good footing with regard to making the NCAA with a NET ranking of 17.
It’s just that life on the road in the Big Ten is no fun getaway with home teams winning 63 of 85 games before Sunday. Only the Ivy League had such imbalance among major conferences, and its 22 games aren’t much of a body of work.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo predicted that the conference champion would have five losses. First-place Maryland has three defeats with eight games remaining.