College Hoops Weekend Recap: Wisconsin Once Again Defends Kohl

February 14th, 2011
Many fans and pundits alike felt that Ohio State's trip to Madison would be the point where they'd suffer their first loss of the season. But after a first half that didn't do much to separate either team those prospects didn't look good as Thad Matta's group went on a 23-6 run to push their lead out to 15 points with 13:21 left in the game. Thankfully for the Badgers Jordan Taylor and company had other ideas, answering with a 30-8 run of their own and eventually going on to win 71-67 at the Kohl Center. Taylor scored 21 of his 27 in the second half and Mike Bruesewitz made some big shots of his own in adding 12 off the bench (10 in the second half). William Buford, who sparked Ohio State's run earlier in the half, led Ohio State with 21 and Jared Sullinger added 19 and 12 rebounds but the Buckeyes fell victim to the three-point shot as Wisconsin made 12 of 24 from deep.

"Our game plan was to get layups," remarked head coach Bo Ryan of the Badgers' game plan. "You always start inside and work out. They were hard to get. We wanted to get stuff inside. If the perimeter shot was open, let's face it, you have to make them."

And make them the Badgers did, outscoring the Buckeyes by 27 points on three-point shots. Taylor knocked down five and Bruesewitz two, with Josh Gasser knocking down all three of his attempts on the afternoon. Jon Leuer scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds but given Ohio State's bulk inside it wasn't a surprise that it was tough sledding up front for Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. The game featured just 57 possessions, a number that's below Wisconsin's season average (59) much less Ohio State's relatively gaudy number of 65. And while the Buckeyes did a good job offensively the three-point shot ultimately cost a team whose opponents shoot just 33.1% from distance on the season.

But what did this result mean for both teams? For the Badgers it's a victory that provides even more of a boost for their already solid numbers, which should result in a lucrative seed come Selection Sunday. And it should also serve as one more piece of evidence that Taylor is indeed one of the premier point guards in America regardless of the Cousy Award's list of finalists. Freshman Aaron Craft had done the job on every opposing point guard he'd faced leading up to Saturday but the seasoned Taylor proved to be too much in the second half. But Ohio State remains comfortably ahead of the pack in the Big Ten standings, and a Big Ten championship was the goal before the season began instead of an undefeated run. Attempt to sell the Buckeyes short after this defeat at your own risk, because this defeat was more about what Wisconsin did as opposed to what they failed to do.

"The goal of this basketball team as we set out was not to go undefeated," said Coach Matta. "I think we'll see our character in how we recover when we come back into practice [Sunday]." (quotes courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics)

Other Notable Happenings

1. Pittsburgh caps the week with a win at Villanova, cementing status as class of the Big East.
With leading scorer Ashton Gibbs out for two weeks with an MCL injury prevailing wisdom had Jamie Dixon's team dropping at least one of their two road games in his absence. West Virginia couldn't do it on Monday and Villanova fell short Saturday night, and the two results cement the Panthers' status as the class of the deep Big East. Maalik Wayns' three pointer that would have tied the game was released after the buzzer, giving Pitt a 57-54 victory that seemed to be a return to the old days in the conference. The Wildcats certainly do have their share of tough players, but there were also some chippy moments that the toughest teams find a way to rise above and Pittsburgh was able to do that. Brad Wanamaker hit some big shots and led the Panthers with 21 points while Nasir Robinson added 15 and seven rebounds, and Pitt's ability to get to the foul line (20-for-30) made up for another cold night from deep (1-for-10). That number will improve when Gibbs returns, making Pittsburgh an even tougher team to knock off come March.

2. Florida State's best player goes down with a broken foot, but they're not dead yet.
Florida State did what they were supposed to do in beating Virginia 63-56 at home but it came with a major loss. Chris Singleton, who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding in addition to being among the best defenders in America, went down with a broken foot and will likely be out until at least March. But while many have rushed to write the obituary for Leonard Hamilton's team the Seminoles still have the ability to get back to the NCAA Tournament. One reason: their schedule. Three of the final five games are on the road but outside of North Carolina on March 2nd these are games that Florida State will likely be favored in (at Maryland on the 23rd will be tough as well). Those other three games: at Wake Forest, Miami and at NC State, and 3-2 at least should be enough to have FSU breathing easy come ACC Tournament time. Offensively others, most notably Derwin Kitchen and Michael Snaer, will need to increase their production but this is a group whose bread is buttered on the defensive end. With no games until Saturday at Wake the Seminoles have some time to figure things out with Singleton injured, meaning outsiders should give them a shot to make adjustments before ruling them out.

3. John Jenkins' career afternoon leads Vanderbilt to the win over Kentucky.
John Jenkins went off on Saturday for a career-high 32 points in leading Vanderbilt to a 81-77 win over Kentucky at Memorial Gym to remain in second place in the SEC East. The loss, combined with Florida's win over Tennessee, may close the door on Kentucky winning the division but given their overall resume they should be in good shape for a solid NCAA Tournament seed. Saturday's game was all about Vanderbilt, who despite not having to do so on the road picked up a tight victory by taking care of business late. Jenkins made six of the Commodores' 11 three pointers, and as a team Vandy also made 20 of 23 from the foul line. Steve Tchiengang's 12 points off the bench can't be overlooked and the same goes for Rod Odom grabbing seven rebounds, and the better these two play off the bench the better Vanderbilt can be as the season reaches its most important moments. Jeffery Taylor will snap out of his shooting slump at some point, and when he does the combination of he and Jenkins (and Festus Ezeli inside) likely makes Kevin Stallings' team a tougher out than the last two seasons.

4. Old Dominion makes a statement at VCU but will need some help in the CAA race.
Not that the countdown was official but many were looking ahead to Tuesday's matchup between VCU and George Mason as the one that would decide who wins the CAA. But while that may still happen the defending conference tournament champions sent quite the message to their crosstown rivals. Old Dominion limited the Rams to 37% shooting from the field in winning at the Siegel Center 70-59, moving to within a game of VCU for second place in the CAA standings. Forwards Ben Finney and Frank Hassell both posted double-doubles while Kent Bazemore added 13 points, and that frontcourt is a major reason as to why the Monarchs should not be ignored in regards to grabbing the league's automatic bid. Keyon Carter played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble but he's another player head coach Blaine Taylor can count on to contribute. ODU isn't the best three-point shooting team, knocking down 32% of their shots from deep, but they do a good job of playing to their strengths offensively while relying on a stingy brand of defense. So while the matchup between VCU and George Mason is still very important to the league race, ODU lurks and they're more than capable of winning three straight in Richmond.

5. Xavier takes care of Duquesne to assume control of the Atlantic 10 race.
Of the top four teams in the Atlantic 10 standings Duquesne may be the one whose resume means they need to win the regular season crown. But those hopes took a blow on Sunday afternoon as Xavier beat the Dukes 71-63 at the CONSOL Energy Center. Xavier's second half defense was outstanding as they limited Duquesne to 25.9% shooting overall and 20% on two-point shots. For the game Duquesne shot just 36% from the field while Xavier made nearly 49% of their shots, and Tu Holloway led four starters in double figures with 20 points. The win moves Xavier a game ahead of the Dukes, Richmond and Temple atop the Atlantic 10 standings and given their resume Chris Mack's club is a virtual lock to be an at-large selection at the very least. As for Duquesne, they've got five conference games they'll be expected to win before visiting Richmond in their regular season finale, meaning that they'll likely need to go 5-1 (if not 6-0) to feel reasonably good about at-large possibilities heading into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. But try as anyone might Xavier, winners of the last four regular season titles, remains atop the Atlantic 10.

Top Five Games

1. (14) Wisconsin 71, (1) Ohio State 67

2. (19) Florida 61, Tennessee 60 Erving Walker provided the heroics on Saturday evening in Gainesville, scoring a layup with 14 seconds remaining to keep the Gators comfortably atop the SEC East. Walker led Florida with 16 while Scotty Hopson led the Volunteers with a game-high 22.

3. Long Island 82, St. Francis (NY) 80 C.J. Garner's jumper as time expired won the Battle of Brooklyn for the Blackbirds, who have won five straight games to remain on top of the NEC standings. Julian Boyd finished with 19 and eight rebounds to lead LIU, and Akeem Bennett led the Terriers with a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds).

4. Western Michigan 85, Ohio 83 Fienard Whitfield's double-double led the way for the Broncos, who hung on to knock off defending MAC champion Ohio on Saturday. Whitfield finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds and Demetrius Ward added 22. D.J. Cooper led the Bobcats with 17 points.

5. Princeton 57, Cornell 55 On a weekend that saw Harvard come back from a 22-point deficit to beat Brown, Sydney Johnson's Tigers managed to remain alone atop the Ivy standings with a win at Cornell. Kareem Maddox's jumper with 10 seconds to go gave the Tigers their ninth straight win and he finished with 23 points. Chris Wroblewski led the Big Red with 14.

Five Notable Performances

1. G Norris Cole (Cleveland State) Cole may have posted the line of the season, finishing with 41 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists in the Vikings' 86-76 win over Youngstown State.

2. F Brandon McGee (Georgia State) 31 points and 13 rebounds in the Panthers' 74-71 win over Northeastern.

3. G Chad Tomko (UNC Wilmington) 31 points, six assists and five rebounds in the Seahawks' 95-93 win at Towson.

4. G Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin) 27 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the Badgers' 71-67 win over top-ranked Ohio State.

5. G Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) 33 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Hokies' 102-77 win over Georgia Tech.