Failure to execute down stretch sends Ohio State men's basketball to two straight losses

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann grimaces from the bench during the first half of the NCAA men's basketball game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Value City Arena in Columbus on Friday. [Adam Cairns]

Just like the previous time it was on the court, Ohio State had the lead in the final five minutes of Friday night's game against Wisconsin. And just as they did against West Virginia, the Buckeyes let it slip away against the Badgers in a 61-57 loss.

There are a number of reasons that have collaborated to hand No. 5 Ohio State this two-game losing streak, but coach Chris Holtmann brought up the same point after both losses: In jumping out to an 11-1 record, the Buckeyes had handled the likes of Villanova (by 25 points), North Carolina (25), Penn State (32) and Kentucky (led for 32:56) with relative ease.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

“Haven't been in a whole lot of close games, though, late,” a tight-lipped Holtmann said Friday night. “That's been the one difference is we have not had a lot of one-, two-possession games late in games where that question (of who has to make a play) has had to be answered.”

Against West Virginia, Ohio State took a 54-53 lead with 4:40 left on an Andre Wesson three-pointer but was outscored 14-5 the rest of the way. During the final five minutes, the Buckeyes were 3 for 9 from the floor and 2 for 5 from three and had three turnovers.

It was a similar story against the Badgers: The Buckeyes led until a Nate Reuvers basket with 1:54 to play gave the Badgers a 52-51 lead. This time, the Buckeyes made 3 of 7 from the field in the last five minutes and 2 of 4 from three, numbers buoyed by Duane Washington Jr.'s three-pointer at the buzzer. They also had two turnovers.

In all, Ohio State has shot 6 of 16 (37.5 percent) from the floor and 4 of 10 (40 percent) from three-point range, with three assists and five turnovers, during the last five minutes of its past two games. OSU also has taken just one free throw, and it was a Kaleb Wesson miss against West Virginia.

Holtmann said Friday that his players should know by now who needs the ball in their hands in clutch situations, but he added that “we've got a couple of guys that have to figure that out.”

Kaleb Wesson said it just takes practice.

“Things like this come down to preparation with older guys keeping poise,” he said Friday. “I feel like tonight (Wisconsin) took us out of some of our stuff. Credit to them. They're a good team. We just got out of our stuff today.”


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: