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Badgers upset No. 1 Buckeyes … (Again)

February 14, 2011 Comments off

MADISON — The Kohl Center, where streaks come to die.

One of the 17,230 fans packed inside the building on Dayton Street made a sign Saturday with the above statement. Another read “24-1.”

After a hard-fought 40 minutes, they were right on both accounts.

Behind an incredible second-half performance by junior guard Jordan Taylor, one that came when his team needed it most, Wisconsin handed No. 1 Ohio State its first loss, 71-67. With the win, the UW became just the eighth school since 1969-70 to defeat the AP No. 1 team in both football and basketball during the same academic year.

“It’s Madison, Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan of the upset. “It’s been said a lot of times about what this campus is like, what this school is all about. … Like I was telling people before, I think the basketball thing is a little different in February with Ohio State being No. 1.

“I don’t know about football rankings, and Ohio State was No. 1, I understand that. I just think in our sport, to be [24-0], you’ve had to win in November, December, January and into February. So, I kind of like ours because it just happened. I loved football’s because I was there at the game. It’s just all good for the school.”

Last time a school upset the nation’s No. 1 team in both sports? Florida, in 2006-07, also over Ohio State.

Heading into the matchup, Keaton Nankivil and the Badgers talked about looking to get off to a hot start and maintain a high level of intensity throughout, something that worked tremendously for the football team back on October 16.

Instead, the basketball version took a little different trajectory.

After a highlight montage from that victory at Camp Randall pumped up the crowd just before tipoff, Wisconsin jumped out to a fairly hot start, building a 12-6 lead through the first 6 1/2 minutes of play. Unlike the football team, however, that hot start did not translate into a dominant wire-to-wire victory.

In fact, the Badgers fell behind by as many as 15 points with 13:21 to play in the second half, stunning the home crowd. The next trip down the floor, trailing 47-32, Taylor hit a floater in the lane that sparked a 15-0 run to tie it.

“You have to give Wisconsin a ton of credit,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We got that lead and had some great looks, I thought, but it just kind of went in and out on us. It flipped, we started missing shots and they started making shots.”

Just like that, in a matter of four minutes, the Badgers took what looked to be a sure blowout and flipped it into the type of back-and-forth battle it had been throughout the first half. Only, they weren’t done there.

After dropping behind once again by four points with 7:40 to play, the Badgers tied it at 55 just 42 seconds later on a Mike Bruesewitz 3-pointer. Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Wisconsin reeled off nine unanswered for its largest lead of the game at 62-55.

Now, not only was Ryan’s squad not going to be blown out, it was in control against the nation’s best. And while Taylor’s 21 second-half points stand out, it was a true team effort that got them there.

“When we were down, I don’t think things really changed,” Taylor said. “They made a run, and we knew we had a run in us. … We eventually we started getting stops and started making plays and everybody made a big play. Not one person didn’t.”

Ohio State kept things interesting over the game’s final minutes, but with the raucous crowd behind it, Wisconsin would not relinquish its lead.

Despite their best efforts, William Buford‘s 21 points and Jared Sullinger‘s 19 point and 12 rebounds just weren’t enough. Despite all the talk surrounding Sullinger as a national player of the year candidate, he and Buford could not do it alone.

“Our game plan [was] to kind of limit his touches, because when he gets it down there, he is pretty much unstoppable,” said Jon Leuer of Sullinger. “It is hard to score if you don’t have the ball, and that is what we were trying to do with him.”

Taylor, who struggled in the first half, finished with a game-high 27 points and seven assists against just one turnover. Leuer, Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser joined him in scoring double digits, with 27 of the points between the four coming from beyond the arc.

As the clock ticked to zero, fans stormed the court, mobbing the Badgers for the second time in four months following a thrilling victory over the Buckeyes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Taylor said. “We were at the football game when they beat Ohio State and a few of us got to go down on the field. Just to be in another court rusher game like that, similar to Duke last year, it was unbelievable.

“It’s something you remember forever.”

 

Ready to upset No. 1 Ohio State

February 11, 2011 Comments off

MADISON – Watching from the packed and highly energized stands at Camp Randall Stadium, one play in particular jumped out at Keaton Nankivil during the Oct. 16 football game between No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

It’s a play that stood out to everyone else, too, as David Gilreath‘s 97-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone for the Badgers’ 31-18 upset and was voted play of the year by UW fans.

“Gilreath returning the kickoff, to me shows right off the bat they’re ready to play,” Nankivil said. “They’re not going to back down from anybody and they kind of made that first move. Secondly, the intensity throughout the entire game. I don’t think Wisconsin in that game really let up or gave Ohio State a chance to keep chipping away at it.”

Nankivil was joined at that memorable victory by each of his teammates, and they all got a great lesson in stepping up to a challenge.

When they host No. 1 Ohio State tomorrow at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin basketball team will have a chance to show its ability to rise to the occasion as well.

To be successful, they’ll likely need to do the two things that most impressed Nankivil about the football team in that upset.

“In a little different fashion,” Nankivil said. “But those are two important things to what we can do against Ohio State as far as hopefully making that first move and hopefully keeping the intensity high. I think those are two things that would really help us out.”

Of course, head coach Bo Ryan‘s players are no strangers to big games, either. Just last season, Wisconsin – unranked at the time – knocked off No. 6 Duke, handing the Blue Devils their first-ever loss in the 10-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

In that game, much like the football team did against Ohio State in October, the Badgers jumped out to a hot start with an early 19-9 lead and never let up. In fact, UW never trailed against Duke en route to the thrilling 73-69 victory.

For senior forward Jon Leuer, that hot start is exactly what sticks out in his mind about the big nonconference victory.

“We got off to a great start and we were able to knock some shots down early,” Leuer said. “Against a team like Ohio State, you can’t get in a hole, otherwise it’s tough to dig your way out. That’s the main thing is just to get off to a good start. But if you don’t, you have to be able to handle that adversity and climb back from it.”

Typically, the mentality heading into a big game such as Saturday’s is one of treating it like any other game. Ryan’s team does its best to maintain the same approach before and after each game, so as to avoid getting to high on any win and too low and any loss.

That being the case, the Badgers still recognize the opportunity presented by the matchup against the top-ranked team in the nation.

“Any time you get the No. 1 that’s kind of a once in a career type of thing,” junior guard Jordan Taylor said. “I don’t think a lot of guys get to play against the No. 1 team in the country, especially at home. I expect it to be fun, and loud, and we’ll be ready to go.”

With the opportunity comes the challenge, and the Buckeyes certainly provide a formidable one for Wisconsin.

In order to come away with the big victory, the Badgers will need to effectively limit freshman Jared Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, while being sure not to forget about guys like William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

Even if they can do all that, things will not come easily on the offensive end, either. Ohio State’s length and athleticism could cause plenty of problems for Wisconsin.

And finally, there’s that unbeatable factor, as OSU enters the matchup with a flawless 24-0 record. But that should only serve to further motivate the Badgers.

“Nobody else has been able to beat them, and we’d be the only team to have proven that we can beat them,” Leuer said. “So there’s a little extra incentive, but any time you step on the court you have the same motivations. You’re just hungry and you want to win, and that’s how we’re going to play.”