Ohio State’s three-point defense still a problem after loss to Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. — When Brevin Pritzl pulled up from the giant “W” for a three-pointer late in the shot clock, there wasn’t much Ohio State could do but watch the long-distance three-pointer find the bottom of the net.
As for the other 11 three-pointers the Badgers made, including the 8-for-18 first-half performance that powered their way to a 70-57 win over the Buckeyes on Sunday, the defensive effort left a little to be desired.
It continued what has been a persistent struggle for Ohio State, which is now allowing Big Ten opponents to shoot a league-high 37.5 percent from three-point range.
“Obviously we haven’t guarded it well all year,” senior Andre Wesson said. “We’ve got to close out better, work on our close-outs, work on not being in so many rotations — just trying to defend better and keep the ball from moving.”
Pritzl did much of the damage, hitting his first five and finishing with a game-high 19 points. Lightly used guard Trevor Anderson, who had made four three-pointers all season, hit 2 of 3. On a day when the Buckeyes struggled to score inside the three-point line at the other end, connecting on only 12 of 30 two-point field goals, it was too much to overcome.
“We did not challenge and contest well enough on their threes,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought we had the ball along the basket a lot and just didn’t finish well enough. Give their defense credit, but we’ve certainly got to be better.”
The Badgers entering the game shooting 26.6% on three-pointers on the road but 39.9% at home. The Buckeyes were well aware of those splits; they just couldn’t do anything about it, as Wisconsin’s ball movement kept Ohio State defenders in constant rotation until someone typically ended up with an open shot. Sometimes it came on a long rebound or a loose ball, and Ohio State didn’t win many 50-50 balls.
For a time in the second half, the Buckeyes threw a zone at Wisconsin that had some success. It could be something Holtmann deploys more as the season continues, but regardless of scheme, the Buckeyes have to contest shots better.
“The bottom line is our man-to-man defense, our close-outs have to be better,” Holtmann said. “We have to get out of rotation.”