Wisconsin (14-2, 5-1 Big Ten) defeated Ohio State (10-4, 4-2 Big Ten) 78-68 in a top-20 matchup at the Kohl Center Thursday night. The Badgers were led by Brad Davison’s 25 points. Tyler Wahl added 20, and Johnny Davis had 14 points to go along with nine rebounds. EJ Liddell’s 18 points led the Buckeyes.
With the win, the Badgers are continuing to build an impressive resume for March. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Wisconsin as a three seed in the tournament, while FOX’s Mike Decourcy has them as a two seed. However, there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played before the big dance. Here are three things Badger fans learned watching Wisconsin’s impressive win over Ohio State.
#1: Wisconsin doesn’t need Johnny Davis to go off every game to win
While 14 points, nine boards, and two assists is not anything to hang your head about, Thursday’s game was one of the worst of the season for Johnny Davis. He shot only 22% (4-18) from the field, 1-5 from three, and committed four turnovers. However, last night showed that the Badgers don’t need him to score 20+ points every game to win. As long as others step up and contribute, Davis doesn’t need to be Superman every night.
Coach Gard hit on this in his press conference, saying, “I think it shows you this team is more than Johnny. Johnny is a big part of this, obviously, but I think we’ve got some really good pieces… I think it’s a sign of a really good team when you don’t rely on just one guy.”
#2: The Badgers struggle to close out games without letting their opponents back in
Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The Badgers entered halftime up 13 points. In the second half, the Badgers were up by as many as 17 points, as they led 74-57. However, the Buckeyes went on an 11-0 to bring the game within six with 55 seconds left. Though the Badgers executed well to ensure Ohio State wouldn’t make it any more interesting, it’s still concerning that they’re not closing out games as well as they should be. Throughout the season, Wisconsin has had big leads against several opponents (Houston, Illinois State, Maryland) but have let them back into the games. Going forward, UW needs to keep their foot on the gas pedal and not let up when they find themselves with comfortable leads.
#3: Wisconsin is improving as the year goes on
Thursday’s game against the Buckeyes was the first time Wisconsin has played a team for the second time this season. This gives us a good look at how the Badgers are progressing as the year continues. After losing to Ohio State 55-73 in Columbus in mid-December, the Badgers clearly had much to improve on. In that contest, they were out rebounded 49-28, shot under 34% from the field, and allowed EJ Liddell to score 28 points. However, in their second matchup, the Badgers and Buckeyes were even in rebounds (33), Wisconsin shot 46% from the field, and they held Liddell to 18 points, most of them coming in the second half. These small improvements are very promising. If the Badgers continue to keep getting better as the season progresses, watch out.
Wisconsin travels to Evanston to take on Northwestern on Tuesday night. Tip off is scheduled for 8’clock on BTN. On, Wisconsin!