Thomas pushes Buckeyes past Badgers

Brandon Castel, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even Wisconsin's agonizingly sluggish pace couldn't slow down Deshaun Thomas on Tuesday night.
Ohio State's preseason All-American took over the game at Value City Arena. He scored 25 points, including 10 during a game-changing 15-0 run, and dished out four assists in the Buckeyes' 58-49 win over one of the top defensive basketball programs in all of college basketball.
Aaron Craft added 13 points and seven rebounds for No. 11 Ohio State (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten), while sophomore LaQuinton Ross scored eight key points off the bench.
Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3) was led by Westerville, Ohio, native Traevon Jackson, the son of Ohio State legend Jimmy Jackson. With his dad's No. 22 jersey hanging from the rafters above, Traevon Jackson scored 12 points in his return to Columbus.
Senior Jared Berggren added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Badgers, while guard Ben Brust connected on three shots from behind the arc for nine points, but it wasn't enough for Bo Ryan's Badgers. They fell two games behind Indiana and Michigan for the top spot in the Big Ten standings.
"They were so pack oriented," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of Wisconsin. "Their positioning on defense is really good. It was tough to shoot 3s tonight, but we were able to find seams, and overall, Aaron Craft was really good."
The Buckeyes got off to a slow start, missing nine of their first 10 shots against Wisconsin's pesky defense and hold-the-ball style on offense. The two teams combined to make just two of their first 16 shots from the floor in front of an increasingly restless crowd.
"We came out slow in the beginning, and that is something we need to stop," Ross said of the Buckeyes. "We need to play all the way through."
It took more than 10 minutes before either team reached double digits on the scoreboard, and Wisconsin held a 26-24 lead heading into the locker room at the break.
But Thomas couldn't be stopped, regardless of who was on him. Ryan tried senior Ryan Evans for most of the night. He gave Berggren a chance and even Mike Bruesewitz. Thomas was too much for every one of them.
"Thomas is the best player we've played against, and we took away his 3-point shot, but he can attack so well and is so strong," Ryan said. "His mid-range game is what hurt us most tonight."
Ohio State's 6-foot-7 forward scored 14 of his 25 points in the second half, making six of his nine shots over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Both teams came out hot in the second half, combining for 30 points (15 apiece) on 12-of-18 shooting in the first seven-plus minutes. Wisconsin still led 41-39 with 12:20 to play, but the Buckeyes took over from there.
Ohio State went on a 15-0 run over the next five minutes to take control of the game. Thomas scored on a layup in transition to give Ohio State a 50-41 lead. He then hit a step-back jumper over Bruesewitz to cap the burst by the Buckeyes, who shot 64 percent in the second half after a 9-for-23 showing in the first 20 minutes.
"We did real well down the stretch," Thomas said. "We screened and passed the ball really well. Coach told us we needed to be aggressive and start out with a fast tempo, and that's what we did."
Wisconsin rallied with back-to-back 3-pointers from Brust and Berggren to make it a five-point game with four minutes to play, but that was as close as they would get.
Shannon Scott stole a pass and converted a three-point play in transition to push the advantage to seven, and Evan Ravenel scored a layup with 54 seconds left to make it an eight-point game.
The Buckeyes outscored Wisconsin 34-14 in the paint, as the Badgers attempted 28 of their 52 shots from behind the arc. Wisconsin did not get to the free-throw line, while the Buckeyes made nine of 12 foul shots in their nine-point win.
NOTES: Ryan fell to 14-9 in his career against Ohio State, including a 10-8 record against Matta in the Big Ten. ... Ohio State has won four of the last six meetings with the Badgers and has three victories in the last four in Columbus. ... Thomas is one of only three players nationally averaging more than 20 points and six rebounds per game. The last players to do that at Ohio State were Evan Turner (2009-10) and Michael Redd (1997-98). ... Thomas is leading the Big Ten in scoring this season. He has now reached 20 or more points in six of his eight Big Ten games as a junior. ... With 1,302 points, Thomas moved to No. 28 on the all-time scoring list at Ohio State. He needs 12 points to pass Jamar Butler for 27th.

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