A trap that Wisconsin didn’t find particularly vexing might have been the antidote for an Ohio State team that struggles to think the game of basketball.


For much of Thursday night’s upset win against the No. 16 Badgers, the Buckeyes opted to double the post in an effort to at least slow down a team that pounded them in the post last month in Madison. That night, Wisconsin beat Ohio State by 23 points thanks to a 42-22 advantage on points in the paint.


In the rematch at Value City Arena, the tactical change didn’t bother Wisconsin coach Greg Gard much. As an unintended by-product of the decision, though, the Buckeyes found themselves in what they called “scramble mode” on a number of defensive possessions.


In other words, they didn’t have time to think: they just had to react. It might be among the shrewdest coaching moves among Thad Matta’s 13 seasons at Ohio State.


“With the trap, there’s not a lot of time to think,” junior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “You’ve got to make it in a split second. We like to call it scramble mode. That really helped us.”


If there’s one thing this team has consistently struggled with – aside from stringing together solid performances – it has been thinking the game. It’s been a primary frustration for Matta throughout the year and it’s a big part of the reason why, entering the Wisconsin game, the Buckeyes had lost three Big Ten home games by a combined four points.


Each game seems to have a simple motto for the Buckeyes. That was again the case tonight, and it followed the same lines.


“The motto for this game was just go out there and play,” sophomore guard C.J. Jackson said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We knew they were going to hit shots and we knew they were a good team. We just figured if we just played hard everything else would take care of itself.”


Added Matta, “Honestly I told our guys today, ‘I don’t care if we even look at the scoreboard. Just play basketball tonight,’ and I thought they did that.”


In doing so, Ohio State ended an eight-game losing streak against ranked opponents. It ended a three-game Big Ten losing streak and also a three-game losing streak at the hands of the Badgers.


It doesn’t put the Buckeyes anywhere near the NCAA Tournament picture. Ohio State is now 16-13 overall and 6-10 in Big Ten play, and it’s hard to picture a team with a sub-.500 conference record in what is a down year for the Big Ten securing an at-large bid without a lengthy conference tournament run.


Tate disputed the notion of having a burden lifted by this win.


“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “There’s definitely more work to do. Of course we can celebrate this tonight but we’ve still got two more Big Ten games against some pretty good opponents. Celebrate this one tonight but get back to work tomorrow.”


For one night, though, Ohio State could smile.


“The mindset from this point is win as many as possible,” Jackson said. “We knew this would be a great opportunity to play against a great, quality team, so ‘why not do it tonight?’ was kind of the mindset.”


There is no much of a margin for error with this Ohio State team. An off night from one key player is tough to overcome, and off nights from two or more players is essentially a death sentence.


So tonight, while Trevor Thompson somehow only scored three points and Marc Loving again finished with more turnovers (3) than made field goals (2), Ohio State never wavered against the Badgers because of its most balanced effort of the year.


Jackson, who averaged 4.6 points entering the game and was shooting 22.6 percent from three, scored a career-high 18 and hit all four three-point attempts. His was the most-pronounced example, but the list goes on.


Micah Potter had nine points and five rebounds in a career-high 28 minutes. He was averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds.


Andre Wesson drilled a pair of three-pointers and finished with six points. He was averaging 2.0 points per game.


Off the bench, JaQuan Lyle hit all 10 of his free throws and scored 17 points, equaling his total from his last four games combined.


Add it all up, and it’s a pretty complete game.


“We haven’t seen it a whole lot,” Matta said. “I thought Micah Potter was tremendous tonight. He got beat baseline a couple times, which wasn’t supposed to happen, but everybody sort of did their part. When you’re making shots it helps the cause. Andre stepping into his shot, that’s what we want him to do.”


Saturday against Nebraska, Ohio State had an 11-point lead early in the second half but didn’t hold it for long. The Cornhuskers hit threes on consecutive possessions to quickly pull within five and set a tone for the ending of the game.


The Buckeyes found themselves in a similar spot against the Badgers. After leading by as many as 16, Wisconsin was within 13 at 62-49 with 8:10 left after a Bronson Koenig layup.


From there, the teams traded points for a combined nine straight possessions during which the Buckeyes grew their lead to 17 points when Lyle hit a pair of free throws with 5:02 to play. The stretch only ended when Nigel Hayes committed an offensive foul, after which Loving hit a free throw and Micah Potter added two more to push the lead to a game-high 20 points and push it out of reach.


“(It was) the Will Ferrell (quote), ‘We can’t freak out. We’ve got to keep our composure,’ ” Matta said. “I used that in a timeout. We did a very, very good job of answering and not panicking. We got a little slow offensively there for a stretch where the shot clock was coming into it but I thought JaQuan did a good job down the stretch off the switches and driving the basketball, getting to the foul line.”


Matta joked after the game that, in becoming the Ohio State coach with most games on the bench, some fans wouldn’t be too upset if he didn’t add to the record. It’s been a noisy week around the program, with Matta’s job security in question on sports radio and internet message boards.


He wasn’t too interested in how this win changes anything.


“I could care less,” he said. “I’m going to go in and coach and away we go.”


His players didn’t say much on the topic, and Matta was asked if he feels it’s important to protect them from the buzz.


“Yeah,” he said. “That’s, like I said, I could care less. I look forward to getting back in there with these guys and going to work. I’m excited and hopefully we can build off this and play this way the next couple of games.”


“The most consistent effort, that’s for sure. It’s amazing sometimes what an extra day of preparation can do for you. I thought we executed well offensively, we did a really good job of taking care of the basketball. The post trap was something we hadn’t done. I thought it helped us neutralize their inside game. (Bronson) Koenig had a tremendous game. I love that kid’s game, and boy was he special tonight.” – Matta, on if this was his team’s most complete game of the year