The Badgers looked to be lost early this season, with just a 9-9 record on Jan. 12. Oh what a difference five games can make.
Wisconsin is riding a five-game winning streak and making a case for a berth in the NCAA tournament, grabbing consecutive win No. 5 on Thursday night with a 79-68 defeat of Ohio State in Madison.
The key Thursday was 3-point shooting, something the Badgers don't often do well. But Wisconsin went 13-for-27 from beyond the arc, with five different players hitting multiple 3s.
The Badgers started with a bang, opening the game with an 11-0 run that stunned the Buckeyes into a timeout before four minutes had passed. But Ohio State didn't roll over by any stretch. Thanks to the efforts of JaQuan Lyle, who had 18 points in the first half, the Buckeyes rebounded from that early shock and kept things close for the majority of the first half. It was a one-point game with eight minutes before halftime, and Ohio State grabbed a brief one-point lead on a pair of Trevor Thompson free throws a minute later. But Bronson Koenig hit back-to-back triples to put Wisconsin back on top, and the Badgers were in front by six at the break.
The Badgers' lead grew as big as 12 in the second half, but the Buckeyes refused to go away. A 9-0 Ohio State run in the middle of the period turned that 12-point gap into a three-point margin, and it got down to two with four and a half minutes to play. But powered by free throws and a big-time 3-pointer by Jordan Hill, Wisconsin outscored Ohio State, 14-5, over the game's final four minutes, running to an 11-point margin of victory.
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The Badgers shot 49.1 percent on the game, red hot in the second half with a 56.5-percent shooting mark. The 13 triples were a season high, blowing the Buckeyes out of the water, as they made just seven. Wisconsin also held a 37-26 rebounding advantage.
Nigel Hayes led the way for the Badgers with 21 points, all but three of those coming after halftime. Koenig had 13 points, and Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ each had 12.
Lyle scored 27 points for the Buckeyes, who got huge production from their reserves. Ohio State's bench accounted for 46 of the team's 68 points. Lyle was the biggest contributor, but Kam Williams added 10 points and Thompson had nine.
The Badgers' fifth straight win sent them to 14-9 overall and 6-4 in conference play. Wisconsin doesn't play this weekend and next faces Nebraska before a big game against Maryland.
The Buckeyes have lost four of their last six games and dropped to 14-10 overall and 6-5 in league play. Next up is a Tuesday game against Northwestern.