COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—A week ago, Ohio State was suffering through an abysmal start in the Big Ten and had two top 15 teams waiting in the wings to add to its misery.
What a difference seven days make.
David Lighty helped Ohio State weather Evan Turner’s foul trouble, scoring 18 points to lead the Buckeyes to their second win over a ranked opponent this week, a 60-51 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday night.
“To beat two Top 25 teams this week, I hope it gets us heading in the right direction,” coach Thad Matta said.
Turner had 15 points despite finishing with four fouls, and William Buford added 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes (13-5, 3-3 Big Ten), who have righted themselves after losing three of four to start conference play while Turner was coming back from broken bones in his back.
“This is just a good week because we played to our potential,” said Turner, who was limited to 26 cautious minutes. “We showed some toughness and we got the job done. It’s nothing new. We had some bumps in the road and we got back to what we’re supposed to do.”
Trevon Hughes had 18 points and Jason Bohannon 10 for the Badgers (14-4, 4-2), who struggled all night to find an inside presence on offense. They were playing their second game without second-leading scorer (15.4 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.2 rpg) Jon Leuer, who fractured his left wrist a week ago.
“Inside post presence is something that you have to have, whether you’re home or away,” coach Bo Ryan said, referring to the 6-foot-10 Leuer. “Both ends, on defense and offense.”
Down 15 with just over 8 minutes left, the Badgers trimmed the lead to seven in the final minutes but couldn’t get closer.
The Buckeyes, who won at No. 6 Purdue 70-66 on Tuesday night, improved to 11-0 at home this season and 4-3 against ranked opponents—or 4-1 when Turner is in the lineup. He missed more than a month of the season, during which the Buckeyes went 3-3. One of those losses was a humiliating 65-43 rout at Wisconsin on New Year’s Eve.
One of the keys to the rematch was that even with Turner—averaging 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5 assists a game—sitting out the final 14 minutes of the first half in foul trouble, the Buckeyes were able to turn a 10-9 deficit into a 12-point halftime lead.
“With (Evan) getting hurt and being out, it was like preparing us for that situation,” said Lighty, who hit 7 of 10 shots from the field and scored nine straight for Ohio State at one point. “It’s not like we haven’t played without him before. No one got down or mad. We just stuck to our game plan and people just made plays.”
The Buckeyes used a 15-4 run in the second half to take control, never giving up the lead and never letting the Badgers draw closer than seven points in the last 14 minutes.
“It was what I consider a great team win, from the standpoint of the foul trouble we were in, guys came off the bench and did a great job,” Matta said. “The defense was what it needed to be to beat a team like Wisconsin.”
The largest—and loudest—Ohio State home crowd of the season was on hand, the number buoyed by the sale of $10 tickets two hours before the game.
The Buckeyes, who led 34-22 at the half, shot 52 percent from the field, made half of their six 3-point attempts and also outscored the Badgers—who only shot five free throws—by five points at the line. Wisconsin was resigned to chucking up shots behind the arc—26 of their 47 shots were 3-pointers.
“Boy, we had a lot of open looks from outside,” Ryan said. “They squeezed inside pretty good. … If the shots aren’t going down from the perimeter, it hurts.”
Lighty said the difference was the Buckeyes’ ability to make stops.
“We did real well,” he said. “Our defense won us the game today.”