Five Things We Learned from the Season’s First Loss
By Brandon Castel
It was a tough loss for Ohio State fans Saturday.
The Buckeyes’ undefeated season came to an end with a 71-67 loss at Wisconsin. The toughest part was blowing a 15-point lead in the second half, but the Buckeyes never quit. They kept fighting until the end, but this time it just wasn’t enough, as Jordan Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half.
We take a look at the five things we learned from OSU’s first loss of the season.
1. Blowing the big lead was discouraging. It’s not the fact Ohio State lost Saturday that should be discouraging to fans, it’s the way they lost. The Kohl Center is a tough place to play, and if they were going to drop a game, many expected this would be the place. Everyone else in the country had lost a game, so the Buckeyes were already one step ahead.
However, that expectation changed when they went up by 15 in the second half. At that point, the Buckeyes had to find a way to close it out. They’ve been down this road a number of times this season, getting big leads in the second half before holding out for a close victory. It has been called “finding a way to win,” but that masks the fact they gave away some big leads. It had yet to cost them a game, but that changed at Wisconsin, obviously.
2. Nothing changes for Ohio State. Despite the loss, nothing really changes for the Buckeyes. They are still one of the top 3-4 teams in the country, maybe still the best team. Wisconsin is a tough place to play, and it’s also a tough matchup for Ohio State with the way their bigs shoot from outside. Add in a huge second half for Taylor, and it just wasn’t OSU’s day.
It means there are no longer unbeatens in college basketball, but it doesn’t mean Ohio State is in trouble. They lost up in Madison back in 2006-07 and went on to win 22 straight before falling to Florida in the national title game. The football team also lost in Madison, and won out the rest of the year, including a victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
3. Wisconsin is elevating its rival status. One thing that does change after Saturday is the idea of where Wisconsin ranks on Ohio State’s list of rivals. It certainly isn’t as heated as the one with Michigan, but the Badgers could be passing Penn State as the Buckeyes’ secondary rival. Intense competition breads disgust and Wisconsin certainly has to be considered the top of the barrel when it comes to basketball.
The only thing that keeps this from being a full-blown rivalry is the fact Wisconsin always seems to be the team doing the upsetting. When Ohio State wins, they are expected to. When Wisconsin wins, their fans rush the field or court. That’s not exactly how a rivalry works. See Ohio State-Michigan pre-Rich Rodriguez.
4. Sullinger didn’t get enough touches. After the game, Jon Leuer said that Jared Sullinger is “pretty much unstoppable” when he gets the ball in the paint. Pretty much isn’t automatic, but the Buckeyes clearly were not intentional enough with getting him the ball inside Saturday. Certainly Wisconsin deserves some credit for taking away the easy entry pass, but this team is so good at moving the ball and passing up good shots for great ones that they should have been able to get the Badgers off-balance enough to sneak inside.
That happened a few times, but not nearly enough in the second half. When the Buckeyes went up by 15, they should have given it to Sullinger every time down the court. Instead, they settled for jump shots. Most of them were good looks at the basket, but the rim was not kind to Ohio State down the stretch. Both Jon Diebler and Sullinger had shots rattle out during Wisconsin’s big run.
5. The Buckeyes need that third scorer. It’s basically a given that Sullinger is going to get his every night. It might not be 30 and 19, but even an off game usually produces 16 points and 13 rebounds. He had 19 and 12 Saturday and William Buford had 21, but the Buckeyes needed that third scoring threat to win the game. They are good when they have two guys going like they did Saturday, but they are great when they get a third guy going.
Lighty and Diebler were a combined 4-of-9 shooting for 17 points in 74 minutes. That’s not enough production out of those two guys. Diebler was being taken away at the three-point line, but Lighty needs to do a better job breaking down his man and finishing at the basket.
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