February 24, 2008

Close again but not enough for the W

COLUMBUS - The Buckeyes showed flashes of putting things together on Sunday afternoon against the Wisconsin Badgers but a 1-11 shooting drought in the final 8:30 minutes of the game was too much to overcome as a seven point first half lead evaporated and the Buckeyes (17-10, 8-6) saw the NCAA mountain get a lot stepper after a 58-53 loss to Wisconsin (23-4, 13-2).

Jamar Butler led the team with 14 points off the bench after head coach Thad Matta decided to insert Jon Diebler into the starting line up in his place. Kosta Koufos had a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds while no other Buckeye broke into double figures. The Badgers were led by 16 points from Jason Bohannon including 4-6 from beyond the arc.

Matta said that the decision to not start Butler was his decision alone and not a result of any sort of rules infraction on the part of the senior guard but rather just a lineup that was used during the long week of practice.

"We ran that group together all week and they had played well," Matta said.

It wasn't only the Buckeyes who had trouble scoring points down the final stretch of the game with the Badgers finding their own woes until a late dunk by Marcus Landry made it a two possession game.

"Because were just scoring like crazy," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan joked. "What did we have, two (laugh)?"

The Ohio State players appeared to be shell shocked after letting another game slip away down the stretch and worst of all having good looks not go down.

"It is really indescribable right now," senior forward Matt Terwilliger said. "I really can't find the words to tell you… Coach Matta told us that at some point that something is going to go our way and we just have got to stay together."

Much like last season's 49-48 win at Value City Arena for the Buckeyes against the Badgers the game on Sunday was more like a football game than a basketball game with the two teams combining for only 22 called fouls. The Buckeyes ran into trouble several times trying to work the ball down low and with so much not being called didn't find themselves making as many trips to the free throw line as in previous outings.

"We just have to execute better and we just have to have a killer mindset in going toward the basket more," Koufos said. "I felt like we played hard but we could have played a little better and shots were just not going our way. We just have to maintain our focus."

The Buckeyes turned the ball over 15 times including four a piece for Butler and Othello Hunter. Every single time that it appeared that the Buckeyes were primed to start a run an ill-advised turnover would stop the run cold.

"We played hard and we have got to keep finding ways to capitalize," Matta said. "We can't get a steal and then throw it back to them. Those are the things we have just got to keep our nose to the grindstone (with) and just keep working."

Early in the game the Buckeyes spotted the Badgers a five point lead after Brian Butch canned a three pointer to put Wisconsin up. The Buckeyes clawed back into the game and got several good minutes from freshman Dallas Lauderdale who got Ohio State up by seven after connecting on a free throw.

Ohio State would hold the lead most of the way through the half would but would the game tighten back up in the final minute and after a Koufos dunk the two teams would go into the locker room tied at 32 a piece.

Most of the halftime hoopla was around a sighting of No. 1 football recruit Terrelle Pryor at the game. The sellout crowd serenaded the undecided quarterback with chants of "We want Pryor" as the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder was seen walking into a tunnel with football head coach Jim Tressel after high fiving several fans on his halftime retreat.

The Buckeyes and Badgers traded the lead for the first eight minutes of the half even though neither team was shooting particularly well. After a Diebler 3-pointer at the 8:33 mark the wheels fell off for Ohio State and the rest of the way it would only be an Evan Turner jumper and free throws the rest of the way.

"All week we knew we were going to have to make plays," Matta said. "Some of the looks we had just didn't go down."

That was crystallized with the final minute of the game when the Buckeyes were down 56-53 and had the ball. Off of a Terwilliger rebound the Buckeyes brought the ball up the court and used a timeout to set the offense. When play resumed the Bucks were forced to use another timeout when Jon Diebler slipped and picked up his dribble in front of the Ohio State bench. After two timeouts the best look that Ohio State got was a 30-plus foot airball from Butler as the shot clock was expiring.

"I put (the team) in a bad predicament," Koufos said. "We were just trying to get whatever we could, the easiest shot."

"We told them coming out that we didn't have to have a three," Matta said. "The scary part was that we had only committed four fouls and if we took a two we would have had to foul. So my thing was if we could get a three off the ball screen but they were switching them so we had told them what we wanted to do on that."

There won't be much time for lamenting the loss with a trip to Bloomington (Ind.) 48 hours away. Will this team come out with a hangover after yet another close loss or with a fire to try and get it taken care of on the court?

"You don't have a choice, you really don't," Matta said. "That is kind of the beauty of it and you have got to pick yourself up and we go in 48 hours and we have to find a way to get ourselves ready to play at the level we played today and then a little bit more."

Stat Leaders
Ohio State - Butler 14, Koufos 10, Hunter 9, Lighty 7
Wisconsin - Bohannon 16, Flowers 14, Landry 10

Ohio State - Koufos 10, Hunter 6, Terwilliger 5, Lauderdale 5
Wisconsin - Landry 9, Bohannon 5, Butch 4

Ohio State - Butler 5, Turner 2
Wisconsin - Flowers 6, Hughes 3, Krabbenhoft 3

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