COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann was ejected with 27 seconds to play in the first half of a contest that shouldn’t have gotten away from the favored Buckeyes, but did. Wisconsin (13-8, 5-6) defeated Ohio State (11-11, 3-8) 65-60, and the Buckeyes have now fallen to .500 in February for the first time since 2003-2004, which was Jim O’Brien’s final season as the OSU head coach.
Freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh led the Buckeyes with 13 points despite fouling out in just 16 minutes of action. Zed Key scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The Badgers shot just 23-of-55 (41.8%) from the field, yet still built an 18-point second-half lead. Ohio State shot 24-of-56 (42.9%) from the field, and just 8-of-13 from the free throw line. The Buckeyes outrebounded Wisconsin 45-26, but only outscored UW 34-30 in the paint.
Ohio State’s 16 turnovers were too much to overcome, not because Wisconsin did much with them, but because the Buckeyes couldn’t afford so many empty possessions. Ohio State has now lost three in a row, and eight of their last nine.
In a sign of the times, Wisconsin opened the game with an 8-0 run. And what may be the final season Buckeye fans get to see it, freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh answered with an 8-0 run of his own, dropping in a pair of threes and a baseline turnaround over the top corner of the backboard.
The tie didn’t last long, as the Badgers got right back at it, thanks in part to forward Steven Crowl, who scored a quick seven points from all over the court. Wisconsin guard Connor Essegian gave the Badgers their first 10-point lead with a three-pointer to make it 26-16 with 7:41 left in the first half.
The UW lead grew to 33-18 when the Buckeyes finally started to chip away. Sensabaugh converted a three-point play, which was followed by a Felix Okpara dunk on an alley-oop from Isaac Likekele. A layup from Key made it 35-27 with 1:18 remaining in the first half.
Following a Chuckie Hepburn basket, Key was whistled for an offensive foul, which ended in the ejection of an arguing Holtmann. Essegian made all four free throw attempts and then Hepburn ended the possession with a jumper to make it 43-27 at the half.
Wisconsin immediately made it 45-27 with a layup by Max Klesmit to start the second half, but Ohio State responded with consecutive baskets by Sensabaugh and Likekele, followed by a free throw and basket by Key to make it 45-34 with 16:48 left in the game.
The Buckeyes spent the bulk of the second half on the verge of cutting the lead into single digits, which finally happened when a pair of free throws by Okpara pared it to 62-54 with 4:15 remaining. A layup by Key just over a minute later made it a six-point game for the first time since the midway point of the first half.
A pair of missed free throws by Tyler Wahl kept the lead at six points, which was then cut to four after a jumper by Justice Sueing with 1:20 remaining. After a missed jumper by Hepburn, acting head coach Jake Diebler called a timeout with under 40 seconds to play. Diebler drew up some one-on-one action for Sueing in the post, which he converted into an and-one situation making a short jumper to cut it 62-60 with 30 seconds remaining, but he missed the free throw.
Hepburn was fouled on the rebound and he made both free throws, ending a 13-0 run by the Buckeyes. The Badgers called a timeout after the second free throw with 24.2 seconds remaining. Sueing missed a baseline jumper on the next possession, ending the Buckeyes’ hopes.
Up next for Ohio State is a Sunday tilt in Ann Arbor on CBS at 1:00 pm. The Wolverines are currently 12-10 on the season.