COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—It wasn’t No. 15 Wisconsin’s ranking that got Ohio State’s attention. It was that the Badgers were on top of the Big Ten.
Jamar Butler and Je’Kel Foster took turns making critical shots down the stretch to lead No. 19 Ohio State to a 77-67 victory over Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
The loss ended Wisconsin’s seven-game Big Ten winning streak and dealt a defeat to the conference’s last unbeaten team.
“The thing we looked at was Wisconsin was 4-0 and the only undefeated team in the league,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “That was a tremendous motivator for us, knocking off the team at the top right now.”
The Buckeyes (13-2, 3-2) had a balanced attack, with Terence Dials scoring 15 points and Ron Lewis, Butler and Matt Sylvester each adding 14.
Ohio State was in danger of falling to 0-3 against ranked teams and dropping below .500 in the conference.
“We went into the game knowing we had to get this one,” Sylvester said of the Buckeyes, who lost 62-59 in double overtime to No. 14 Michigan State on Sunday. “This feels so good. We had our backs against the wall, and you tell yourself we need a win. When you get it, it feels that much better.”
Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker each scored 21 points for the Badgers (14-3, 4-1), with Tucker shooting 9-of-22 from the field.
“Basketball is a streaky game,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “The best thing to do is get something at your end and we went some stretches where we didn’t do that.”
With the Buckeyes on top 44-43 and 14 minutes remaining, the Buckeyes ran off eight straight points. Butler hit two free throws, seldom-used sub Ivan Harris hit a 3 from the left corner and Butler made a 3 early in the possession to push the lead to 52-43.
Ohio State, which beat a ranked team for the first time in three tries this season, never trailed again.
The Badgers pulled to 65-61 with just under 6 minutes left on Brian Butch’s 15-foot jumper, but then Foster came out of his slump. He hit the second of two free throws. After a miss by Tucker, he came out of an inbounds play to hit a 3-pointer from the right side. After two more Wisconsin misses, Ohio State went inside to Dials and he hit a baseline turnaround over Jason Chappell for a 71-61 lead with 3:33 left.
“Coach Matta believed in me,” said Foster, coming off a 3-for-13 shooting effort against Michigan State. “I tried to take my time. I haven’t been making many, but if I keep shooting then they’ll start going in.”
Neither team shot the ball well the rest of the way, trading missed free throws and errant 3-pointers.
Four free throws by Taylor cut the lead to 72-65 heading into the final minute with Lewis hitting three foul shots and Foster and Butler each adding one to keep the Buckeyes in control.
“At the end there, if we score on the three or four possessions when we had a shot, we could have got it to three or four points … who knows?” Ryan said. “When you come into a ranked opponent’s gym, and you’re in that kind of a position, you get it down to six or so and it’s doable. You need some help, but our guys battled to that point.”
Butch added 11 points for Wisconsin, which had beaten Ohio State in its last three trips to Value City Arena. Butch twisted his left ankle on a defensive rebound with 6:34 left in the first half and was helped to the locker room, but came back to play most of the second half.
Wisconsin had its worst shooting game of the season, hitting 38 percent (25-of-66). The Buckeyes, meanwhile, came out of a shooting slump by making 54 percent.
“Every win in the Big Ten is important, especially when you’re protecting your home court,” Dials said. “Wisconsin is a great team. Our guys came ready to play.”
The teams were tied at 31 at halftime after three ties and 11 lead changes.
Wisconsin was without two reserves. Freshman forward Marcus Landry, who had played in every game and averaged 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds, was declared ineligible for the game. No reason was given for the ineligibility. In addition, backup center Greg Stiemsma was on what was called a “leave of absence for personal medical reasons.” Neither player made the trip to Columbus. A Wisconsin spokesman would not elaborate on the reasons for their absence.
Ryan curtly ignored a question about the status of the two players after the game.