ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
COLUMBUS — By now, Ohio State’s games against Wisconsin have become a caricature of grinding Big Ten basketball.
You know the script.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan slows it down with a game plan presumably copied off a stone tablet, the officials swallow their whistles, and a white-knuckle finish ensues.
But Tuesday, Deshaun Thomas and the 11th-ranked Buckeyes had enough, turning their latest throwback scrap against UW into a 58-49 victory with a decisive late run.
Trailing 41-37 with 13 minutes remaining, OSU set off on a 15-0 run to ensure its third straight victory — and set up a likely top-10 showdown at No. 1 Michigan next week. The Buckeyes (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) play Saturday at lowly Nebraska before heading to Ann Arbor on Tuesday night.
“We knew that Wisconsin wanted to slow it down,” said Thomas, who scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting. “But we knew that we needed to punch them in the mouth, and increase the tempo.”
Behind their junior star, the Buckeyes did just that.
All night, Thomas got his way with a series of bullying drives and mid-range jumpers. But he was at his best late, scoring 10 of 15 points during Ohio State’s 15-0 surge. His final points came after shaking his defender with a crossover, then stepping back for a 15-footer that pushed OSU ahead 52-41 for its largest lead of the night.
It was just the latest standout performance for a player who has transformed from a chucker with little interest in defense as a freshman to an All-American candidate. Matta called Thomas’ effort Tuesday, which also included four assists and only one 3-point attempt, among the best of his career.
“Thomas is the best player we’ve played against and we took away his 3-point shot, but he can attack so well and is so strong,” Ryan said. “His mid-range game is what hurt us most tonight.”
For much of the night, a game that ended with the Buckeyes’ student section gleefully pointing at Ryan and chanting ”Deal with it” — the phrase UW’s coach coined after the Badgers’ handed OSU its first loss in 2011 — was a usual installment of this growing rivalry.
The Badgers (14-7, 5-3) drained the clock on offense while OSU struggled. Midway through the first half, Wisconsin led 9-8. But the game picked up, with OSU hitting seven of its first eight shots of the second half and the Badgers continuing to enjoy long-range success. UW hit 6 of 11 shots to open the second half — including three 3s.
Wisconsin shot 36.5 percent overall (19 of 52) and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc (11 of 28).
OSU, which outscored the visitors 34-14 in the paint, shot 63.6 percent in the second half after shooting 39.1 percent in the first.
Findlay native Aaron Craft added 13 points for the Buckeyes. Traevon Jackson, son of former Macomber and Ohio Star Jim Jackson, led the Badgers with 12 points.
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.