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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A lot of coaches would go ballistic if their 6-foot-10 center stepped outside and took a 3 with the clock running down and their team behind on the road.
Not Bo Ryan, however.
Jared Berggren scored Wisconsin’s final five points including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left and the 16th-ranked Badgers beat No. 8 Ohio State 63-60 on Sunday, assuring Michigan State of at least a share of the Big Ten title.
“Wasn’t that huge?” Ryan gushed later. “Give the kid a lot of credit. He’s done that before.”
In Ryan’s offense, the big men have to carry their share of the load at the offensive end and that doesn’t necessarily mean with their backs to the basket down on the block. The Badgers have a history of big men who aren’t afraid to step outside and take aim.
“We always if we have an open look we have to be aggressive,” said Berggren, who finished with 18 points. “They’re a good defensive team so you know open looks can be hard to come by. So when we get an opportunity like that, you have to step up with confidence. Jordan (Taylor) found me on the wing and I had a little space. I just stepped up and knocked it down.”
It was a huge win for the Badgers (21-8, 10-6), who were discouraged after losing at Iowa on Thursday night. Wisconsin had not beaten a top-10 team on the road since topping No. 4 Ohio State 72-71 on Jan. 26, 1980. Ryan was an assistant coach on that team.
It was also another heartbreaker for Ohio State (23-6, 11-5), which has dropped three of its last five.
“In today’s game, (it was) just our inability to sustain what needed to be sustained,” coach Thad Matta said. “Be it offensive execution or defensive stops, we weren’t able to get those things done.”
With Ohio State up by a point, Berggren swished a shot from beyond the arc on the left wing. The Badgers were only 15 seconds into the shot clock, but the big man was feeling it.
“They were putting a lot of attention on Jordan,” Berggren said. “I made a read, found some space and knocked it down.”
Ryan didn’t have a problem with the shot selection, either.
“Best available shot,” he said. “Ohio State’s that good defensively that you don’t pass up a whole lot of open shots against them.”
The Buckeyes called a timeout, with the Badgers and a small contingent of fans celebrating.
“It was a great shot,” said Deshaun Thomas, who led Ohio State with 23 points. “I looked over to the right and he was wide open and he shot the 3 and he hit the big shot.”
After inbounding, Thomas ended up with the ball at the top of the key. He went up for the shot but Ryan Evans, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Wisconsin, rushed at him and closed fast, throwing off his shot. It hit off the back of the iron, with Berggren grabbing the rebound.
“I didn’t like that shot, obviously,” Matta said. “Deshaun’s man was sitting underneath the basket and Aaron (Craft) came off and set a great screen. (Deshaun) had a pretty good look.”
Berggren was fouled and hit both shots with 14.2 seconds left for a 63-59 lead.
Craft, who had 13 points for the Buckeyes, hit a late free throw to close the scoring.
William Buford, playing his final home game, finished with 15 points. Jared Sullinger, averaging 17.2 points a game, had 24 points and 10 rebounds in Ohio State’s 58-52 win at Wisconsin, but was held to eight points and six rebounds in this one.
The Badgers improved to 6-3 in Big Ten road games and 9-4 overall away from Kohl Center. Since Ryan took over as head coach, Wisconsin has the most road wins and best road winning percentage among all Big Ten teams (62-60, .508).
Still, it had lost its last two road games and appeared to be in danger of stretching that skid after falling behind by eight points with under 8 minutes left.
“It’s awesome,” said Taylor, who led the Badgers with 19 points. “Especially late in the season. We came off a tough loss against Iowa and to be able to come into an environment like this against a great team, it’s really big for us.”
Ryan couldn’t hide his pride in his players. From Thursday night’s disappointment to Sunday’s high, they’d come a long way.
“You always measure people by what it takes to discourage them,” he said. “If you get discouraged and you get frustrated it certainly doesn’t help in the game of basketball. Our guys stayed to the task.”
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap