EJ Liddell tied a career-high with 28 points on an efficient 11-of-16 shooting in Saturday afternoon’s 73-55 win over No. 22 Wisconsin (8-2, 1-1). The No. 21 Buckeyes improve to 8-2 on the season and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
Liddell also added nine rebounds. Zed Key scored 11 points. He was the only other Buckeye in double figures. Kyle Young led both teams with 14 rebounds. Wisconsin star guard Johnny Davis scored 24 points on 11-of-22 shooting in 38 minutes of action.
What was a close game for 20 minutes went south for Wisconsin in the second half.
Liddell got the game started with a three-pointer to begin an opening 7-2 run for the Buckeyes, which was then canceled out by an 8-0 Badger run featuring two three-pointers from guard Brad Davison. Ohio State turned the ball over on three-straight possessions which led to three Badger baskets in a row. One bad pass from Liddell was intercepted by Davis and led to a dunk for Wisconsin’s top scorer. The stretch of turnovers allowed the Badgers to build a 17-9 lead.
Trailing 19-11, the Buckeyes went on an 8-0 run of their own, backed by five quick points from Liddell and a three from Jamari Wheeler. Ohio State didn’t stop there, however, adding a Wheeler layup and Zed Key dunk to make it a 12-0 run and a 23-19 OSU lead with 6:37 left in the first half. The Buckeyes wouldn’t trail the rest of the first half, but wouldn’t build a lead larger than the 34-29 margin they had after 20 minutes of action.
The Buckeyes shot .577 from the field in the first half and held Wisconsin to just .387 shooting but only led by five points because of their 10 turnovers. They eased up on turnovers in the second half and a lead quickly grew.
Threes by Justin Ahrens and Meechie Johnson sandwiched a Wheeler layup to give Ohio State a 42-31 lead. An alley-oop from Johnson to Key with the shot clock winding down added another basket to the margin. Johnson then added a three-pointer on OSU’s next possession. By the end of the Buckeyes’ run they had scored 12-consecutive points and were leading 56-36 with under 10 minutes to play.
Things never got much better the rest of the way for Wisconsin.
Ohio State shot 29-of-58 from the field (.500) and held the Badgers to 22-of-65 shooting (.338). The Buckeyes turned the ball over 14 times, but just four times in the second half.
Stop With the TOs, Baby!
Turnovers were the story early as the Buckeyes had six turnovers in the first eight minutes of action. Most of those turnovers were technically forced, but it had more to do with Ohio State being careless with the ball. EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham had two of those turnovers. Branham had his pocket picked by a defender at the top of the key and was not strong enough with the ball. Liddell had a bad pass that was intercepted, which has been one of the less-than-bright sports for OSU all season long. Kyle Young and Jamari Wheeler had turnovers where they simply lost their dribbles. Those six turnovers led to the Buckeyes trailing 16-9 at the 11:47 mark of the first half.
Cedric The First-Half Entertainer
Ohio State guard Cedric Russell went the first 15:57 of the first half without scoring, but ended with a flurry. After watching Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis cut OSU’s lead to one point at the 4:23 mark, Russell hit a jumper 20 seconds later. Fifty seconds after that, he dropped in another basket to give the Buckeyes a 29-24 lead. After the Buckeyes and Badgers traded a couple of baskets, Russell ended the first-half scoring for both teams when he pump faked on a three, stepped left and drained a three-pointer to give Ohio State a 34-29 halftime lead. Russell ended up playing 10 minutes in the first half, but he saved the best of those 10 minutes for the final 243 seconds. Russell played nine more minutes in the second half but missed all three of his field goal attempts.
Wisconsin came into this game with a scoring advantage in the backcourt thanks to 20-point-per-game scorer Johnny Davis and Brad Davison (the reigning co-Big Ten Player of the Week), but the Buckeyes stayed right with them thanks to a group effort from several different Ohio State guards. Davis finished with 24 points but most of those points came when the game was no longer in doubt. Davison added 13 on 4-of-12 shooting. Jamari Wheeler scored nine for the Buckeyes, Cedric Russell and Meechie Johnson combined for 15 points off the bench. Malaki Branham went scoreless in his 14 minutes as he had four turnovers and struggled to control the basketball. Justin Ahrens added five points on 1-of-4 shooting. The Badger guards outscored the Buckeyes as expected but Ohio State’s defense didn’t make easy for anybody.
Now comes the part where the Buckeyes held an immense advantage. EJ Liddell, Kyle Young, and Zed Key are Ohio State’s top three scorers, averaging a combined 40.7 points per game. Against Wisconsin, they combined for 44 on 18-of-29 shooting. Liddell led all scorers with 28 points, Key dropped in 11, and Young added five points. But they also contributed to Ohio State outscoring the Badgers 32-24 in the paint and outrebounding Wisconsin by a 49-28 margin. Wisconsin’s starting forwards Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl combined for three points on 1-for-10 shooting on the day.
The Box Score
[EJ Liddell header photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept. of Athletics.]