CHICAGO - For the second night in a row, Ohio State faced a double-digit deficit at the Big Ten tournament.
In the opening round, the sixth-seeded Buckeyes rallied from 15 points down in the second half to beat Penn State.
Last night in the quarterfinals, they found themselves trailing third-seeded Wisconsin by 13 late in the first half.
The Buckeyes battled back to tie the game, but No. 23 Wisconsin proved to be too strong down the stretch, pulling away for a 60-49 victory at the United Center.
Forward Zack Morley, who came in averaging just 6.7 points per game, scored a career-high 23 points for the Badgers (21-7), who will meet Iowa in the semifinals today after the Hawkeyes upset Michigan State.
"Morley was the difference in the game," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We just didn't have an answer for him."
The Buckeyes (20-12) didn't have an answer for Wisconsin's pesky defense, either, shooting just 34 percent (21 of 61) from the field and 10 percent (2 of 20) from 3-point range.
"We knew we would have to make some outside shots to beat them and we knew they would pack their defense in around [6-9 center] Terence Dials," Matta said. "Well, we made our first two 3-pointers and then we missed our next 18.
"I thought in the first half, we were very tentative in our offensive approach. We lost our confidence and quit attacking. We were much better in the second half and we made a nice run to get back into it. But it wasn't enough in the end."
Ohio State, down 29-18 at the intermission, opened with a 10-2 run to start the second half.
The Buckeyes forged their second tie at 39-39 on a layup by Je'Kel Foster before Morley hit a 3-pointer and another jumper and Mike Wilkinson sank two free throws and banked in a shot to put the Badgers up 48-41.
But Dials and Sullinger made baskets and Tony Stockman hit two free throws to make it 48-47 with 4:20 to play.
However, Morley gave the Badgers some scoring room down the stretch, hitting two baskets and four free throws.
Overall, Morley hit 8-of-11 shots and grabbed seven rebounds for defending tournament champion Wisconsin, which beat OSU for the third time this season despite shooting 39.3 percent (22 of 56) from the field and 16.7 percent (2 of 12) from 3-point range.
The Badgers need a big offensive game from Morley, because their top two scorers - Wilkinson and Alando Tucker - combined for just 24 points on 9-for-28 shooting.
Dials had 12 points and seven rebounds for Ohio State, which is finished for the season because of a self-imposed postseason ban that prevents it from playing in the postseason.
J.J. Sullinger and Matt Sylvester added 11 each for the Buckeyes, who hit their first three shots and led 8-2 three minutes into the game.
But then they misfired on their next eight shots and the Badgers, despite making just two of their first 11 attempts, tied the game at 8-8 on four free throws and Kammron Taylor's layup.
From there, things went downhill quickly for Ohio State. The Buckeyes managed just four points - two baskets by Matt Sylvester - during the next 17-minutes stretch and Wisconsin raced to its biggest lead at 25-12.
OSU made just five of its final 23 shots in the first half and shot 30.8 percent.
Contact Ron Musselman at: