MADISON — Ohio State followed up two tough losses with their best game yet under coach Chris Holtmann.
The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 83-58 on Saturday afternoon, handing the Badgers their worst loss ever at the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998. The worst previous loss was 61-44 to Michigan State on Feb. 12, 2000.
Keita Bates-Diop had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Kaleb Wesson scored 19 points for hot-shooting Ohio State, which hit 66 percent and led comfortably for most of the afternoon.
“This was kind of as well as we could play for stretches,” said Holtmann, in his first season with Ohio State. “We probably caught Wisconsin on a difficult day.”
Jae’Sean Tate added 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting for Ohio State (6-3, 1-0).
The Buckeyes shot 18 of 23 (78 percent) in the first half, including an 8-of-9 run during a five-plus minute stretch that opened up an 18-point lead. They were up 49-26 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 10-2 run that quieted the typically rowdy Kohl Center crowd.
Freshman Brad Davison had 16 points to lead young Wisconsin (3-5, 0-1), which has lost five of its last six games.
The Badgers have four new starters this season around big man Ethan Happ (seven points, six rebounds). Their problems could be epitomized during a stretch late in the first half in which the Buckeyes double-teamed Happ to force a turnover.
Musa Jallow sprinted down the other end for an easy layup and 20-point lead with 1:15 left.
Defensively, the Badgers gave up too many open looks from the 3-point arc and got overpowered in the lane when the game was still competitive. They were outrebounded 32-18 and outscored in the paint 36-12 on the day.
“The easiest thing to say is we didn’t come with enough energy,” Happ said dejectedly. “We just need to be more prepared to play.”
Things were going so poorly that Badgers fans offered mock applause when the Buckeyes finally missed their first 3 of the game at 3:38 of the first half after making their first seven attempts.
Offensively, ball movement was a problem for a roster relying on four freshmen to either start or play key roles off the bench.
The Badgers had faced four ranked opponents over their five previous games, losing each contest. The other game was a 71-49 win over UW-Milwaukee.
“Maybe that was a sign — we’ve had so many of these in a row, we didn’t have anything in tank today,” coach Greg Gard said. “That’s inexcusable in terms of what we needed, specifically right out of the gate at the start of the game.”