COLUMBUS — The Big Ten basketball slate is not for the faint of heart, and Friday night’s home contest against Wisconsin was another reminder of that for Ohio State and coach Chris Holtmann.
The Buckeyes made just two field goals over the game’s final 10 minutes and fell to the Badgers 61-57.
The Big Ten rivals battled for 40 minutes, trading leads in a sloppy first half that saw Ohio State (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) shooting just 36 percent from the floor and head into the locker room trailing Wisconsin (9-5, 2-1 Big Ten) by four, 29-25.
The second half was more of the same.
Led by Andre and Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes returned to the floor with some much-needed energy in and ripped off a pivotal 10-0 scoring run to retake the lead, 38-31. After a nearly six-minute scoring drought, the Badgers stormed back, hitting three straight buckets to close the Buckeyes lead to just one point, 45-44, at the under-eight-minute timeout and tied it at 47-47 a minute later.
Ohio State would make just three more shots from that point — all taken by Duane Washington — and Wisconsin hit six straight free throws to ice the already freezing cold Buckeyes.
Lettermen Row is breaking down what it learned in the latest outing for the basketball Buckeyes with Three Points from Friday’s game against Wisconsin.
Ohio State needs hustle and passion of Kyle Young
He’s only averaging 8.3 points per night for Ohio State, but there’s no denying that without junior forward Kyle Young, the Buckeyes are a different team.
And in Big Ten play, the absence of Young’s energy and tenacity leaves an even greater, and more noticeable, void on the floor for Ohio State. Wisconsin’s physical style of play put Kaleb Wesson and the younger Buckeyes post players to the test, especially freshman E.J. Liddell, who picked up four fouls in just 13 minutes of court time. He also missed his lone field-goal attempt and finished with two points.
As Young recovers from his appendectomy — a recovery that Chris Holtmann said would have him available on a “game-to-game” basis — expect to see the scrappy Big Ten slate call attention to Ohio State’s lack of an interior defender.
The Buckeyes need their glue guy.
If Ohio State offense doesn’t run through Kaleb Wesson, it doesn’t run
It may sound like too simple a game plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true: Ohio State has to get the ball to Kaleb Wesson and run the offense through him.
Wesson scored 10 of Ohio State’s 25 first-half points on 4 of 4 from the floor, and it was the effort from him and his brother Andre that fueled a second-half run, which led the Buckeyes back from their intermission deficit. Wesson finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, but that wasn’t enough without any real help coming his way.
For Ohio State to compete for a Big Ten and national title this season, it can’t forget its best player. Whether he’s taking the shots or setting them up for someone else — Wesson’s two assists were good for second on the night for the Buckeyes — it’s Wesson who makes the engine go for Holtmann’s program.
Buckeyes expect and need more from guards in Big Ten play
Ohio State has limited depth in the frontcourt and that’s not a secret. Behind Kaleb Wesson, especially with Young out as mentioned, there’s not a lot of help, and that means that the Buckeyes backcourt has to step up and contribute meaningful and productive minutes. That simply didn’t happen against Wisconsin.
Duane Washington, C.J. Walker, Luther Muhammed and D.J. Carton — who played more than a combined 120 minutes between them — didn’t do their part in complementing the efforts of the Wesson brothers. That quartet scored just 24 points (18 from Washington) and dished out only two assists while turning it over to the Badgers eight times.
Washington’s struggles from his previous two outings — he shot just 5-15 from the floor against West Virginia and Kentucky — continued. With open looks most of the night, the talented but streaky shooter was just 6 of 19 for Ohio State. After a hot start to the season, his inability to hit shots has thrown off the early season chemistry that the Buckeyes displayed in three wins against Top 10 opponents.