The date was February 12, 2011. The setting was the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The 24-0 and top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes looked unstoppable, having steamrolled everyone that stood in their path. The game seemed like it was following the season’s same familiar script, as the Buckeyes jumped out to a 15 point lead in the second half.
And then Jordan Taylor caught fire.
The Badger point guard scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, ultimately rallying Wisconsin to the 71-67 victory. As the students rushed the floor in celebration, one of them allegedly spat at Jared Sullinger in the ensuing ruckus.
When asked about Sullinger’s saliva related accusation in his postgame press conference, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan pompously boasted that the Badgers had won the game, so Sullinger and the Buckeyes should just ‘deal with it.’
Since that date, the Buckeyes have done exactly that with Wisconsin – dealt with them. Ohio State pounded the cheese eaters in the rematch last year 93-65 and methodically executed a 58-52 victory in the teams’ first matchup 2011-12 season Saturday.
Sullinger, who played as if he did not want to be spat at again, led the Scarlet and Gray with 24 points and 10 rebounds, surpassing the 1,000 career point total in the process.
The win kept the Buckeyes on top of the Big Ten standings and was Ohio State’s first at Wisconsin since 2000. In fact, the Kohl Center has been Thad Matta’s personal house of horrors, as the coach had never won there before Saturday. With the victory, Matta has impressively won at least 20 games in each of his first 12 years as a head coach.
What made the win especially gratifying was that it took place only a handful of days after Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema whined – like a little girl who had her block of cheese stolen – when Urban Meyer flipped one of his recruits. It was completely fine for Bielema to attempt to flip Brian Rolle well after he verbally committed to Ohio State a few years back, but when Urban returned the favor, Bielema deemed it as ‘illegal.’ Makes absolute perfect sense to me.
Did I mention it’s nice to beat the Badgers?
Bielema probably didn’t think the rims were being fair Saturday, when the Badgers shot a measly 5 for 27 from three point range. Wisconsin, who relies heavily on the three in its daily attempt to turn college basketball game into some type of snail race, was still within one point in the last few minutes until William Buford hit his biggest shot of the season. Buford only shot 4-15, but it was great to see him show some senior leadership during the game’s critical possession.
Bielema also didn’t think it was fair that Aaron Craft was able to keep Taylor in check Saturday, holding the Badger senior to only 12 points on 4-10 shooting. Without Taylor lighting up the Ohio State defense from downtown and controlling the game, Wisconsin was never able to get into a rhythm, which undoubtedly contributed to the team’s poor shooting.
While the Duke game was more fun (is there anything more fun than destroying the literal Devils of college basketball?), I think this was the Ohio State’s biggest win of the year. Besides getting the Kohl Center monkey off of their back, the Bucks maintained their lead in the conference standings and, perhaps more importantly, proved that it can beat a quality opponent on the road. With trips to Michigan and Michigan State on the horizon, this was critical.
Helping Sully out in the scoring department for this crucial game was Deshaun Thomas with 16 points and Buford with 11. Still, Saturday was all about the big man. Sullinger was an absolute beast, dominating the pesky Badgers in the lane and on the glass, setting the stage for the season’s stretch run.
Deal with it Wisconsin.