By CHRIS JENKINS, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Jared Sullinger scored 24 points and William Buford hit a critical 3-pointer down the stretch, helping No. 3 Ohio State beat No. 19 Wisconsin 58-52 on Saturday.
Deshaun Thomas scored 16 points and Buford added 11 for the Buckeyes (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten), who held onto their lead in the conference standings. Sullinger also had 10 rebounds.
Ryan Evans scored 14 points for the Badgers (18-6, 7-4), who were 5 for 27 from 3-point range.
With the victory, Ohio State ended a nine-game losing streak to Wisconsin in Madison — and avoided a repeat of last year's comeback by the Badgers.
The Badgers had no answer for Sullinger early on. He scored the Buckeyes' first nine points, consistently getting the best of the player assigned to defend him, Jared Berggren. Sullinger finished the first half with 16 points.
Wisconsin stayed in the game despite going 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half.
Sullinger had a tougher time to start the second half, taking an elbow to the face from Berggren on the defensive end and later missing an easy layup after he'd badly beaten a defender on the baseline.
A layup by Wisconsin's Josh Gasser cut Ohio State's lead to 42-38 with 8:36 left, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit a layup and was fouled by Berggren — Berggren's third foul of the game. Smith hit a free throw to convert the three-point play for a seven-point lead, and the Badgers had a shot clock violation on their next possession.
Trailing 47-40 with 6:22 left, Wisconsin went on a 10-4 run, cutting Ohio State's lead to one on a 3-pointer by Mike Bruesewitz with 3:41 left.
But Sullinger came up with a steal, and Buford hit a 3-pointer on the other end to give the Buckeyes a 54-50 lead with 2:27 left.
Sullinger missed a wild shot inside, but Taylor was called for traveling when he ran into Smith as he brought the ball up the court.
Aaron Craft hit a pair of free throws for Ohio State and Taylor hit a layup on the other end, and the Buckeyes led 56-52 with 43.2 seconds left. Buford hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to six, and Wisconsin's Ben Brust lost the ball out of bounds.
Saturday's game came after a few days' worth of tension between the schools' athletic departments, centered around a dispute between their respective football programs.
Badgers football coach Bret Bielema hinted during his news conference on Wednesday's national signing day that new Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was using "illegal" recruiting tactics. Bielema didn't provide specifics.
Meyer and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith subsequently issued statements defending their recruiting practices. Meyer said "no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical."
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