Buckeyes Hand UW Worst Loss At Kohl

By Jeff Rapp, December 2nd, 2017

Sometimes competitive sports just can’t be explained.

Take Chris Holtmann’s undermanned Ohio State men’s basketball team, for example.

The Buckeyes closed November with painful losses to Butler and Clemson, losing double-digit leads in each game, then were saddled with opening the Big Ten schedule at Wisconsin on Saturday.

The Kohl Center has been a house of horrors for lots of visitors including Ohio State teams of all levels and yet this particular one drilled its first seven three-point attempts, played with a sizable lead all night and posted an 83-55 win that now goes down as the worst defeat by a Badgers team in its building.

“This was kind of as well as we could play for stretches,” Holtmann admitted after bagging his first Big Ten win in grand style. “We probably caught Wisconsin on a difficult day.”

Upon taking over the program in place of 13-year boss Thad Matta, Holtmann said the success of this season’s team would hinge largely on the play of forwards Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop. They came through in a big way in the wipeout of of UW (3-5, 0-1 in the Big Ten).

Bates-Diop had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Tate added 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting for visiting OSU (6-3, 1-0). Meanwhile, freshman center Kaleb Wesson led the way with 19 points on a night that saw the Buckeyes hit 66.7 percent of their shots.

The Buckeyes were up 49-26 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 10-2 run that quieted the crowd at the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998. The Badgers’ previous worst loss there was a 61-44 setback against league co-champion Michigan State in 2000.

“In a game like this, the start of the second half is important because we stretched the lead a little bit,” Holtmann said. “We didn’t give them a chance to get back into it … It was always relatively out of reach.”

Freshman Brad Davison had 16 points to lead Wisconsin, which is in a rebuilding mode. The Badgers return center Ethan Happ but trotted out four new starters from a year ago for their Big Ten opener.

Happ had just seven points and six rebounds. Even without injured post man Micah Potter, OSU outrebounded Wisconsin 32-18 and owned the pain offensively as well with a 36-12 advantage there.

Outside the arc was even better. In fact, the Buckeyes didn’t miss from there until 3:38 was left in the first half, prompting a Bronx cheer from the UW faithful.

OSU shot 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) in the first half, including an 8-of-9 run during which it opened up an 18-point lead. This time, the Buckeyes didn’t even come close to blowing it.

“Coach was just like telling us all week, we’ve either got to get tired of losing or we’re just going to get lessons taught to us over and over again,” Tate said. “It’s still a long season but this is steppingstone for us, just showing that we can draw the line.”

The Buckeyes will be tested again quickly as conference game number two is a home date with rival Michigan on Monday (6:30 p.m. Eastern, FS1).