Ohio State nearly squandered a 27-point lead but the No. 13 seed Buckeyes held on to defeat 12th-seeded Wisconsin 65-57 in a Big Ten tournament first-round game in Chicago on Wednesday.
Wisconsin (17-14) closed to 61-57 before Justice Sueing’s free throw gave Ohio State a five-point lead with 49 seconds left.
Tyler Wahl, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, missed a jumper and Ohio State’s Felix Okpara made a foul shot for a 63-57 lead before Wahl missed a 3-pointer for Wisconsin’s last chance because Roddy Gayle Jr. clinched the win for the Buckeyes with a pair of foul shots with 11 seconds left.
Ohio State (14-18) plays No. 5 seed Iowa (19-12) on Thursday. The winner faces No. 4 seed Michigan State (19-11) on Friday.
Sean McNeil led Ohio State with 17 points, Sueing had 16 and Bruce Thornton 15.
The Buckeyes, who started four freshman, had an 18-point halftime lead.
Ohio State took its largest lead, 47-20 with 15:31 to play but later a 19-2 stretch pulled the Badgers to within 57-52 on a banked 3-pointer by Wahl with 2:13 to go.
McNeil stopped the 11-0 run with a pair of free throws with 1:20 to go.
Ohio State led 36-18 at the half, bettering the 16-point halftime advantage for the Badgers in their 65-60 win over the Buckeyes on Feb. 2.
It was all Buckeyes from the onset.
Racing to a 27-12 lead with seven minutes left in the first half, Ohio State looked more like the team that won two of its final three regular season games than the Buckeyes who had lost 14 of the previous 15, including a nine-game losing streak.
McNeil was 4 for 4 Ohio State drained 4 of 7 3-pointers while the Badgers missed all seven of their long-range attempts.
The Buckeyes have momentum from the victory but the reality is that it will take five victories in as many days to win the title, something no Big Ten team has done.
–Field Level Media