COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No. 16 Wisconsin dug a hole so big in the first half Thursday night that it turned out to be impossible to escape.
The Badgers not only were unable to catch Ohio State in Value City Arena, but the 83-73 loss left them some catching up to do in the Big Ten race.
The surprising loss dropped Wisconsin (22-6, 11-4) a game behind Purdue (23-5, 12-3) in the conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season.
The game was all but decided in the first 20 minutes when Ohio State (16-13, 6-10) raced out to a 44-31 lead. Wisconsin opened the second half with an air ball. Ohio State answered every challenge that was thrown in its path and expanded the lead to as much as 20 points in the final four minutes.
"We let them get comfortable early," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "We didn't follow what we talked about for two days in terms of letting them do what they want to do. You get a little confidence right from the start ..."
C.J. Jackson, JaQuan Lyle and Jae'Sean Tate combined to power the Buckeyes to the upset.
? Jackson played his best game as a Buckeye, hitting all four of his 3-point shots and finishing with a career-high 18 points. Lyle scored 17 points while going 10 of 10 from the free-throw line and Tate delivered a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds to help Ohio State end a three-game losing streak.?
"The motto for this game was to just go out there and play," Jackson said. "We knew it was going to be tough and they were a good team, but if we play hard everything would take care of itself. ?
"Really from the head guy to the bottom guy, we were all dialed in tonight."
Ohio State used a post trap to help control the paint. Wisconsin didn't shoot poorly, finishing at 43.9 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from 3-point range, but defense was the issue. That's a surprise considering the Badgers are statistically the Big Ten's top defensive team and No. 4 nationally.?
"Our offense wasn't what got us in trouble," Gard said. "It was our inability to stop them specifically in the first half when we dug ourselves such a big hole. We had not been that porous defensively, that disconnected or disjointed in a long time."
Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from 3-point range. The Buckeyes dominated the boards with a 38-25 advantage and led by as many as 20 points in the second half.?
"Of course it feels good to win, especially against a team like that, a top-ranked team," Tate said. "I feel like everybody was on the same page tonight. We played hard. It just seemed like we couldn't miss. That just comes from preparation."
Ohio State hit 5 of 10 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from the field in the first half while opening the 13-point lead at the break.?
The Buckeyes had built a 16-point lead in the first half after Tate hit a shot in the lane that made it 44-28. Koenig answered with a 3-pointer with five seconds left before intermission to cut into Ohio State's lead.
As was the case in Sunday's win over Maryland, Wisconsin struggled in the first half. The Badgers shot 37.5 percent from the field and were outrebounded 23-12.
"The numbers told the story in the first half," Gard said. "We knew they would like play with a sense of urgency."
On the other side, the win was a relief for Ohio State coach Thad Matta, whose team has struggled with inconsistency while underachieving all season. The Buckeyes had frittered away a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds at home on Saturday in a disappointing loss to Nebraska.
"I'm really happy for our guys," Matta said. "I thought we executed well offensively."?
-- Wisconsin G Bronson Koenig returned to the starting lineup after missing a game last week against Michigan with a leg injury and coming off the bench on Sunday in a home win over Maryland.
-- Thad Matta set an Ohio State record coaching in his 457th career game. He passed Harold Olsen (456) and Fred Taylor (455).
-- Wisconsin F Ethan Happ is the only player in the country leading his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals per game. Happ was held to a season-low six points in the first meeting with Ohio State this year.
-- Ohio State's 23-point loss at Wisconsin in January was its most lopsided loss of the season.
-- The Buckeyes are 3-13 against ranked opponents the past two seasons.
-- One or both teams have been ranked in 22 of the last 24 meetings.