MADISON, Wis. — When Ohio State eventually hit a 3-pointer, even the in-arena announcer at the Kohl Center seemed flustered.
Only 13:22 remained in Thursday night’s top-20 showdown between the Buckeyes and Badgers, and No. 13 Wisconsin had built its lead to a game-high 17 points when E.J. Liddell squared up from the top of the circle, let it fly and found the bottom of the net.
As he headed back upcourt, the achievement was audibly credited to “E. Lay Jiddell,” a slip of the tongue that said everything about how the No. 16 Buckeyes had gotten there.
No. 16 Ohio State never led and suffered through its poorest 3-point shooting performance of the season in a 78-68 loss to the Badgers at the Kohl Center.
That first Liddell 3-pointer gave the Buckeyes (10-4, 4-2 Big Ten) some much-needed life, and his second made 3 got a comeback rolling. That shot pulled Ohio State within 56-45 (and made them 2 for 15 from deep), and it started a 7-0 run to get the visitors within 56-49.
They would keep coming, even getting within six points with about six minutes to play and again with 55 seconds remaining, but Wisconsin (14-2, 5-1) answered the first challenge with a bucket from Steven Crowl and, one possession later, a three-point play from Brad Davison to push it out of reach.
No combination of Liddells or Jiddells could stop the Buckeyes from taking the ‘L’ from there as Wisconsin salted the game away with highlight-reel dunks.
The game was a far cry from the first meeting between the teams this season, when Ohio State handed Wisconsin a 73-55 loss at Value City Arena. The Buckeyes would then go 22 days without playing a game as the program went on COVID-19 pause.
Liddell, who would foul out with 3:18 to play, finished with a team-high 18 points, 14 of which came during the second half. Ohio State went 3 for 19 (15.8%) from 3, a season-worst percentage.
Ohio State was playing its first game without second-year guard Meechie Johnson Jr., who suffered a facial injury during Tuesday’s practice and is likely to miss at least two weeks.
The Badgers opened with a 3-pointer from Steven Crowl and Ohio State answered with a 3-point miss from Jamari Wheeler. It would be a familiar refrain, as the Badgers built an 18-7 lead by having four different players hit a 3-point shot.
By the half, Wisconsin was 7 for 13 (53.8%) from deep while the Buckeyes were empty on eight attempts as their deficit grew as high as 14 points. That came on a wide-open 3-pointer from Lorne Bowman II, who gave the Badgers a 35-21 lead with 4:36 left in the half.
When Liddell’s last-second 3-pointer hit the front of the rim and fell short, it sent Ohio State into the locker room trailing 40-27. That tied its largest halftime deficit since No. 1 Duke led the Buckeyes 43-30 at Value City Arena in a game Ohio State would rally and win, 71-66, on Nov. 30.