Value City Arena was roaring, and Ohio State was poised to cap a comeback for the ages Sunday afternoon.
Dead and buried to the tune of a 23-point deficit moments into the second half, the Buckeyes found some mojo, a few turnovers and a whole lot of offense and were somehow tied at 63 and dribbling down the final seconds of the game.
Senior C.J. Jackson, with his defender sagging off him, opted to launch a three-pointer instead of driving and found only air. Then Keyshawn Woods intercepted a full-court Wisconsin pass and heaved a half-court shot at the buzzer that, although dead on, came up just short.
It was a 16-1 run to close the game, but that was it for the Buckeyes.
The No. 21 Badgers (22-9, 14-6) hit 6 of 11 free throws in overtime and outscored Ohio State 10-4 to close a 73-67 thriller and spoil Senior Day for the Buckeyes (18-13, 8-12).
“I just felt like this game, we weren’t giving up no matter what the situation was,” Woods said. “Everybody wanted it. I think that’s what fired everything for us to come back to send it to overtime.”
Given recent results, there was little to indicate that such an outburst was in the offing. Then Jackson started the run with a banked-in three-pointer from the left wing, one that Woods followed with a three from the right corner that hit every part of the rim before falling with 6:33 to play that pulled the Buckeyes within 58-42.
Those baskets started an 11-0 run, but Ohio State still trailed 63-51 with 2:57 to play before closing on a 12-0 run, each rapid-fire bucket bringing those who remained in the crowd of 18,231 to another crescendo.
To contrast: The Buckeyes missed their first 11 shots and scored just 16 points during the first half.
“In some cases, backs are to the wall and in some ways there’s more of a freedom you play with,” coach Chris Holtmann said of the difference. “We were just going to roll with two of our seniors, really, and see where that took us. I thought those guys spearheaded our comeback in a lot of ways.”
Jackson, who had scored 30 points in his last five games, scored 15 of his team-high 22 points during the second half. Jackson and Woods combined to score 19 of Ohio State’s final 27 points in regulation.
Holtmann did not offer any specific update on the status of suspended center Kaleb Wesson after the game, but said he could have an answer as soon as Tuesday.
Ohio State will open the Big Ten tournament as the No. 8 seed facing No. 9 seed Indiana in the first game Thursday at Chicago’s United Center. The Buckeyes will bring a three-game losing streak with them, one that sent Ohio State to its most losses in conference play since it went 1-15 in the 1997-98 season.
“We’re going to fight to the end into the Big Ten tournament and then the next tournament we’re in,” Woods said. “We’re in the situation where we’re on the bubble and you lose, you’re out. We’re going to bring all our effort, all our 'A' game to keep playing basketball. We don’t want no spring break.”