Jordan Taylor and Wisconsin found themselves in a huge hole against previously unbeaten Ohio State, but the Badgers only needed about 13 minutes to shatter the Buckeyes' chase at an undefeated season.
"We knew we had a run in us," Taylor said.
Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, rallying No. 13 Wisconsin from a 15-point deficit to beat No. 1 Ohio State 71-67 on Saturday and keep Division I without a perfect team since Indiana in 1975-76.
Taylor was the catalyst, sparking a 15-0 run with eight straight points, then keeping the Badgers calm down the stretch with his poise.
"(He) made all the difference in the world. He came down and hit those back-to-back 3s and got us right back into it, and from there you could just see we had some momentum," Wisconsin's Jon Leuer said. "It was unbelievable what he was able to do in such a short period of time, when we were battling adversity."
Wisconsin (19-5, 9-3 Big Ten) topped a No. 1 opponent for the first time since 1962, when it was also Ohio State. The Badgers joined Florida as the only programs to knock off the same No. 1 school in both football and men's basketball in the same academic year. The Gators also beat Ohio State in both sports in 2006-07.
Fans at the sold-out Kohl Center stormed the court, just like when they rushed the field at Camp Randall Stadium following the Badgers' 31-18 win there over then-No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 16.
"I kind of like ours because it just happened," coach Bo Ryan said. "I loved football because I was there at the game. It's just all good for the school."
"We got a good, old piece of humble pie, so we're back hungry," Sullinger said. "This team wants to get back and practice tonight - unfortunately, we can't due to NCAA rules."
Mike Bruesewitz and Leuer scored 12 points apiece, while freshman Josh Gasser added 11 for Wisconsin, which won its 17th straight at the Kohl Center and improved to 150-11 at home under Ryan.
"The goal for this basketball team when we set out was not to go undefeated," Matta said. "We'll see our character of how we recover when we come back into practice."
Wisconsin was sharp from beyond the arc, hitting 12 of 24 3-pointers to key the upset, but it sure didn't look like the Badgers would be close after falling behind big.
Taylor sparked the first big run, hitting a floater and two deep 3-pointers, then Wisconsin went on another 10-0 run down the stretch to hold on.
"They had to play for that stretch damn near perfect to get us and they did," Matta said. "They deserve the credit for that."
After the Badgers' first spurt, Ohio State took a 55-52 lead on two free throws by Aaron Craft with 7:11 left.
Bruesewitz tied it with a 3 and when Sullinger tried to crash the offensive glass, he tripped and left Keaton Nankivil open on the other end for a jumper. Taylor then made a 3 from the left side and added two free throws to give Wisconsin a 62-55 lead with 4:18 to play.
Jon Diebler and Sullinger each hit two free throws cutting it to 65-63 with 58 seconds left in a last-gasp run. But Bruesewitz hesitated at the top of the arc trying to find Leuer or Taylor, and took an open 3 instead, hitting it to make it 68-63.
"I shot faked, and then I was thinking about kicking it to Jon because Jon was open, but they jumped to him and I was like, 'Oh, I guess I'm going to shoot this and knock this down,'" Bruesewitz said.
Craft then lost the ball out of bounds, and the crowd began pouring down to the lower level for the celebration to come moments later. Leuer was hoisted by the crowd and pumped his arms for more noise in the middle of the madness.
The Buckeyes, who wore black "3407" patches on the two-year anniversary of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 that killed everyone on board including Ohio State video coordinator Kevin Kuwik's girlfriend, maintained their composure in the noisy environment over the opening minutes.
Wisconsin went ahead by six early and Gasser's 3-pointer made it 24-19 with just over 4 minutes left in the first half. But Buford scored 15 points in Ohio State's 23-6 run that turned a five-point deficit into a big lead that the Buckeyes failed to protect.
"Rankings don't matter. It's about the last team that's standing at the end of the day the first week in April," Sullinger said. "At the end of the day, you want to be the last team standing."
About 10 minutes before introductions, the Kohl Center crowd was whipped into a frenzy when highlights of the Badgers' win over Ohio State in football were shown followed by the message "Let's Take Down No. 1 Again." The honorary coach was John Erickson, who led Wisconsin's 1962 squad to its only other win over a top-ranked opponent.
Fans rushed the court that day in March. Forty-nine years later, they did again.
"There's so many people trying to get closer and closer. It's like suffocating," Leuer said. "It's fun to celebrate."