MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan pointed out Alando Tucker’s mistakes. It didn’t take very long.
“Four turnovers. Two assists,” Ryan said. “I told him he’d have the game ball if he had taken care of the ball a little bit better.”
Tucker did everything else right. He had 27 points and 16 rebounds, seven offensive, to lead Wisconsin to its third straight victory, 78-73 over No. 12 Ohio State on Wednesday night.
“He sold programs and popcorn, too,” Ryan said. “It had to be fun to watch if you could just sit back and watch the game, because his energy was everywhere.”
Wisconsin (18-7, 8-4) took sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, one game behind Iowa.
Trailing 64-59, the Badgers scored seven straight points—five by Ray Nixon and two free throws by Tucker—to take their first lead since midway in the first half.
Tucker, averaging a league-best 21 points in conference games, finished 7-of-11 from the free throw line, where he’s shooting 53 percent this year.
“He made big plays. He drives and finishes,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “When he’s making his free throws, wow.”
Jamar Butler hit a jumper for Ohio State (18-4, 7-4), the Buckeyes’ only field goal over a 6-minute stretch, to tie the game at 66. But Nixon, who finished with 13 points, answered with another 3-pointer to give the Badgers the lead for good.
“It’s a great feeling when you hit a big shot or make a great basket and you feel the building about to erupt,” Nixon said. “So many people had dropped down on Alando, we got an open look because he was so successful on the inside.”
Brian Butch, who finished with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:46 left to make it 72-68 and Ohio State never had a chance to tie again.
Terence Dials was 5-of-5 from the field and hit both of his free throw attempts in the first half, then scored 12 of the Buckeyes’ first 14 points in the second half.
But Dials was shut out over the final 12:35 and finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds. He was blocked inside by Tucker with 1:31 left with a chance to cut the Badgers’ lead to two.
“He didn’t look like he was going to dunk it, so I figured I could just step in and try to alter his shot,” Tucker said.
Butler had 17 points and Matt Sylvester added 14 for the Buckeyes.
Tucker and Kammron Taylor combined for Wisconsin’s first 15 points of the second half as the Badgers tied the game at 57 with 7:26 left. Taylor finished with 12 points.
But Butler hit a jumper, then Je’Kel Foster made a steal and found Sylvester on a fast break for a three-point play that gave the Buckeyes a 62-57 lead.
“We had opportunities, and with Wisconsin’s help, we at times lost our composure on both ends of the floor,” Matta said.
Ohio State’s first loss in February came on the day former coach Jim O’Brien won a lawsuit claiming that the university improperly fired him after he loaned money to a recruit. A judge in Ohio said the $6,000 loan to Aleksandar Radojevic didn’t warrant O’Brien’s firing.
O’Brien sued the university for $3.5 million in lost wages and benefits after he was fired in June 2004. With interest and other damages, he could receive nearly $9.5 million.
Radojevic, who had lost his amateur eligibility, never played for the Buckeyes, and O’Brien said he didn’t tell university officials because it was a moot point.
O’Brien, 55, coached the Buckeyes to a 133-88 record that included two Big Ten titles and a Final Four appearance in seven seasons.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” said Dials, who was recruited by O’Brien. “This is Coach Matta’s team. Coach O’Brien’s a thing of the past.”