COLUMBUS, Ohio — The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team took away Deshaun Thomas’ 3-point shot Tuesday night.
But that’s about the only thing the Badgers stopped the Ohio State junior forward from doing during the No. 11 Buckeyes’ 58-49 victory in a Big Ten Conference game at Value City Arena.
Thomas played a huge role in a 15-0 run by Ohio State in the second half and finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting.
“That’s easily the best player we’ve played as far as how he can get his own shots,” UW coach Bo Ryan said. “Thomas was good. We did take his 3s away, because he’s been hitting some 3s, so we thought OK, but he was tough on the two-point jump shots, real tough. And he can attack (because) he’s so strong.”
Sophomore guard Traevon Jackson had 12 points and senior forward Jared Berggren added 11 for UW, which didn’t attempt a free throw for the first time in Ryan’s 390 games coaching the Badgers.
That was just one indicator of how much Thomas and the Buckeyes (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) dominated in the paint.
Ohio State finished with a 34-14 advantage in points in the paint. Thomas had 16 in that area to outscore the Badgers by himself.
Thomas, who had a game-high four assists, also hit some tough jumpers and was 5-for-6 from the line. Thomas only attempted one 3-pointer — he came into the game averaging six attempts from behind the arc in league play — but that didn’t stop the Big Ten’s leading scorer from scoring at least 20 points for the 11th time this season.
“He’s a good player,” said UW’s Mike Bruesewitz, who split time with fellow senior forward Ryan Evans trying to guard Thomas. “He’s going to get his. We gave him a couple easy ones that let him get going, and those tough shots become less tough just because you’re feeling it.
“That’s the type of dude you’ve got to contain early and make sure he can’t get anything easy, otherwise it’s going to be a long night for you as a defender.”
The Badgers (14-7, 5-3) shot a respectable 39.3 percent from 3-point range, making 11 of 28 attempts, but finished a horrid 33.3 percent (8-for-24) on shots from inside the arc.
Evans finished with two points on 1-for-10 shooting. He and Berggren unofficially combined for 10 shot attempts in the paint but only converted once apiece.
“We needed to finish around the basket,” Ryan said. “We had several attempts inside the paint.”
UW led 41-37 after freshman forward Sam Dekker scored on a putback with 13 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the game. But Thomas scored 10 points during a 15-0 run that put the Buckeyes in control for good.
The Badgers went nine consecutive possessions and 7:13 without scoring. UW went 0-for-7 from the field with three turnovers during that stretch.
“Just bad mistake after bad mistake,” UW junior guard Ben Brust said, “and (we) let it affect us.”
Brust, who scored all nine points on 3-pointers, summed up the difficulty the Badgers faced scoring against the Buckeyes.
“The way they play defense, when we got the throwbacks (from the post), those were good shots,” he said. “But when we didn’t get the throwbacks, what were we going to get?”
The answer, unfortunately for UW, was not much.
Brust ended UW’s drought with a 3-pointer that cut Ohio State’s lead to 52-44 lead with 5:49 remaining. The Badgers got within 55-49 on a drive by Jackson with 3:08 left, but UW came up empty on its last five possessions.
UW produced only eight points on its final 19 possessions of the game.
“They’re long and athletic and they work extremely hard,” Bruesewitz said. “That’s a pretty tough combination. But we’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t shoot a free throw. We’ve got to do a better job of getting down on the block and finishing and drawing more fouls. We just didn’t do a good enough job on that tonight.”
Jackson couldn’t get over the fact the Badgers never got to the free throw line.
“I mean, that’s crazy,” he said. “I don’t understand that. I thought we had some attacks, we just didn’t get any calls. I’m not going to complain about the refs or anything, but I’ve never played in a game where we haven’t been to the free throw line.”
Junior point guard Aaron Craft added 13 points for the Buckeyes. While the Badgers had a hard time getting good looks in the paint, it was a much different scenario for Ohio State because Craft and Thomas were able to get to the rim with ease at times.
“It’s hard to do because they’re so pack-oriented,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of getting in the paint on the Badgers. “Their positioning defensively is really, really good. I don’t know this for certain, but I’d say we’ve never taken just five (3-pointers) against a Wisconsin team in the time I’ve been here.
“But we were able to find some seams. Aaron was tremendous in getting inside the defense.”