COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the midst of a raucous locker room after No. 1 Ohio State’s 93-65 payback victory over 10th-ranked Wisconsin, Jon Diebler said he was sorry to his teammates.
“I apologize for missing that one,” he said.
Diebler lived up to his “3-bler” nickname Sunday by hitting 7 of 8 shots behind the arc while scoring 27 points, as Ohio State (29-2, 16-2 Big Ten) set NCAA Division I records by making 14 of 15 3-pointers (93.3 percent) and hitting 14 in a row – after missing the first.
“On our best day this year, we hit 11 of 17 and thought we’d hit the jackpot,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Fourteen of 15? I don’t think people do that very often. Either that, or I’m living in the wrong part of the country.”
Still smarting from their first loss of the year, a 71-67 setback at Wisconsin on Feb. 12, the Buckeyes unleashed their best game of the season – shutdown defense at one end and 68-percent shooting from the field at the other.
“I don’t know if you could script it much better,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “Our defensive energy was incredible … and offensively the shots were falling. It was incredible how well we shot the basketball.”
Freshman Jared Sullinger had 22 points just weeks after accusing a Wisconsin fan of spitting in his face as he left the floor at the Kohl Center. He had told several people that he not only wanted to beat the Badgers, but that he wanted to beat them by 50 points.
The final score only seemed that lopsided.
“That first loss in college, I didn’t take that too lightly,” Sullinger said. “I wanted to win, and I wanted to win big, too.”
William Buford added 18 points and David Lighty 13 for the Buckeyes, who won their 22nd straight home game while dropping Wisconsin to just 4-5 in Big Ten road games this season.
Ryan had been the focal point for many fans in a capacity crowd of 18,809 who felt he had disrespected the Buckeyes after the first meeting when he said, “We won the game. Deal with it.”
Ohio State officials fueled the fans’ enmity by handing out 1,400 scarlet towels that read, “Deal With It.” When Ryan’s picture was shown on the monitors at midcourt before the game, there was a large chorus of boos, and the Buckeyes student section immediately behind the Wisconsin bench yelled at the coach most of the day.
Asked after the game about the towels, Ryan said, “What towels? … I know one thing, towels didn’t blow the ball in on all those 3s.”
The Buckeyes built a 47-32 halftime lead – the exact score they led by in the second half of the first game before Wisconsin came roaring back – thanks to 6-of-7 shooting behind the arc.
Topping that, Ohio State hit all eight 3s in the second 20 minutes.
Diebler, who tied the Big Ten record by hitting 10 shots behind the arc in a win at Penn State on Tuesday night, is 17 of 20 on 3-pointers in his last two games for the Buckeyes, who had clinched the outright Big Ten title a day earlier thanks to No. 6 Purdue’s loss at Iowa.
Josh Gasser had 17 points, Jon Leuer 16 and Keaton Nankivil 10 for the Badgers (23-7, 13-5). Jordan Taylor, who had scored 21 of his 27 points to lead the comeback in the second half of the first meeting, was limited to eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. He was shadowed throughout the game by Ohio State freshman Aaron Craft.
“Aaron did a tremendous job,” said Matta, whose teams have won four Big Ten titles in the last six years. “He’d studied so much film. What might go unnoticed is the job the other guys did in helping Aaron. But he was a pit bull out there today.”
Wisconsin drew as close as 56-45 on Nankivil’s 3 with 14:15 left before the Buckeyes put the game on ice. Diebler was at the heart of it, starting things with a 3. He later hit one off an inbounds play and then dribbled around a defender and stepped back for yet another to push the lead to 69-48 and cap a 10-0 run midway through the second half.
The rest of the game was a matter of killing time until the Buckeyes could cut down the nets and raise the Big Ten trophy. They’ll be the top seed in the Big Ten tournament this week in Indianapolis, and are all but assured of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Lighty, who played his final home game along with Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale, said the victory was nothing more than a step toward bigger goals.
“Our first mission was a regular-season Big Ten championship. That’s complete,” Lighty said. “Now we’ll turn our focus on a three-day tournament that we need to win and that will get us ready for the NCAA tournament. That’s just step two of our three-step mission.”
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