CHICAGO (AP) — Sean McNeil scored 17 points, Justice Sueing added 16 and 13th-seeded Ohio State held on to defeat 12th-seeded Wisconsin on Wednesday night to open the Big Ten Tournament.
The Buckeyes (14-18), who had a 27-point lead with 15 1/2 minutes to play, face fifth-seed Iowa in the second round on Thursday.
Bruce Thornton added 15 points for Ohio State, which went 1 for 8 from the field in the final 10 minutes and missed six free throws, including the front end of two 1-and-1’s in the final four. Brice Sensabaugh had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Tyler Wahl had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Connor Essegian scored 11 for the Badgers (17-14), who were 8 of 31 through almost 35 minutes before going 12 of 23 when they closed within 57-52 with 2:13 to go.
Ohio State turned it over, but Max Klesmit missed a 3-point attempt that could have cut it to two. McNeil made two free throws with 1:20 left for the Buckeyes. After that they were just 4 of 8 until Roddy Gayle Jr. made a pair with 11.2 to play to seal it.
Wisconsin, which has been to 22 of the last 23 NCAA Tournaments, went 1 of 8 in the final two minutes and finished at 34%, going 4 of 22 from 3-point range. Ohio State was 6 of 13 from long range and shot 52% overall but had 16 turnovers and allowed Wisconsin 15 offensive rebounds.
Thornton had 13 points as the Buckeyes shot 68% to race to a 36-18 halftime lead. The Badgers missed all seven of their 3s and shot 30% (7 of 23) for their biggest halftime deficit of the season.
When Felix Okpara and Sueing opened the second half with baskets for the Buckeyes for a 40-18 lead, Wisconsin had its largest deficit of the season. When Sensabaugh hit a 3-pointer it was 57-20 with 15:31 remaining.
Both teams had their worst seed ever for the Big Ten tourney.