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No. 15 Ohio State pulls off some history with complete win at Wisconsin

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell (32) works the ball low against Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers in the first half of Saturday's game at the Kohl Center.

MADISON, Wis. – One cardboard cutout loomed larger than all the others, and it had a specific purpose.

On the path from court to locker room, a full-size Bucky Badger cutout held a white poster-size sheet of paper for the Ohio State men’s basketball team to clearly see. And when they went to and from the locker room before playing the No. 10 Badgers inside the Kohl Center, it proclaimed a simple message: “BUCKY>BUCKEYES”.

Except on this day, nothing Wisconsin-related was. No. 15 Ohio State (12-4, 6-4 Big Ten) didn’t need a big run, a significant comeback or a big defensive stop late in the game. Instead, the Buckeyes pulled off a little bit of history by simply outplaying Wisconsin (12-4, 6-3) from tip to final whistle in a 74-62 road win.

Ohio State guard Meechie Johnson (0) blocks a shot by Wisconsin guard Brad Davison in the first half.

Playing in black alternate uniforms for what is evidently the first time in program history, Ohio State won its third straight road game against a top-15 team also for the first time in program history.

Wisconsin had won 18 of its last 19 at home and had won three straight against the Buckeyes. Once Ohio State took the lead at 9-6, Wisconsin was never again within one possession.

"I thought our players from the jump really grabbed ahold of this thing and I couldn’t be more proud of our group," coach Chris Holtmann said. "It was a tremendous character win for our group after a tough one the other night (in Tuesday's loss to Purdue)."

E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Six other Buckeyes scored between 8-10 points, with Seth Towns finishing with 10. CJ Walker, in his first game back after missing the last four with torn ligaments in his right hand, had eight points and three assists in 24 minutes off the bench.

The first six points from Towns came on jumpers from just inside the three-point line after a ball fake and one dribble.

"It’s something I try to do every game is stay ready, be warm and ready when I get in and hit the shots I take," he said. "That’s what I try to do."

After Liddell won the opening tip against former Ohio State center Micah Potter, the Buckeyes sophomore scored on a jumper 20 seconds into the game to give the Buckeyes the lead. Justice Sueing followed with a drive on the next possession and Liddell added another jumper over Potter from further away for a 6-0 lead.

"We wanted to come out and play aggressive the whole game," Liddell said. "That just set a tone to come out and play aggressive the rest of the game."

Before the half, it would reach double figures. The first came when Duane Washington Jr. hit Ohio State’s first three-pointer of the game to give the Buckeyes a 24-13 lead with 8:24 to play, and Wisconsin wouldn’t get closer than seven points during the remainder of a first half that featured its fair share of odd plays.

Five possessions into the game, Wisconsin’s Brad Davison hit a three-pointer as Washington converged on his spot along the right wing. Both players went down but Davison, who has a history of embellishing calls, had the three-pointer wiped out when the officials handed him an offensive foul for kicking out as the Ohio State guard converged on him.

A few possessions later Potter, a 40.5% three-point shooter on the season, had his open attempt wedge itself between the rim and backboard. And before the half was over, Ohio State freshman guard Meechie Johnson Jr., who graduated high school a year early and joined the team in December, recorded his first career block when he rejected Davison, a senior.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy