Ohio State falls off undefeated perch

By Matt Strong

 

The Ohio State men’s basketball team ran into a problem every title-contender has encountered since 1991 – remaining undefeated. The Buckeyes dropped their first contest of the season to then-No. 13 Wisconsin, 71-67, on Saturday.

Despite holding a 15-point lead in the game, Ohio State (24-1, 11-1 Big Ten) buckled down the stretch while the Badgers stormed back. Jordan Taylor led the way for Wisconsin (19-5, 9-3 Big Ten), scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half.

In a losing effort, William Buford scored 21 points while freshman big man Jared Sullinger added 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The victory for Wisconsin marked its first against a No. 1 opponent since 1962 when it also defeated the Buckeyes

The most recently released Top 25 polls indicate that OSU have lost their No. 1 ranking, dropping to No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 and to No. 3 in ESPON/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Coaches Poll has 22-3 Texas as the second team in the nation. Many of the voters in the weekly polls for college basketball base their rankings off of the “What have you done lately” motto, which explains Ohio State’s drop, notwithstanding a 24-0 start.

Kansas new No. 1

Kansas is the new No. 1-ranked team, according to both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Jayhawks have achieved the ranking with great team play and shooting efforts throughout the season. Kansas is first in the nation in field goal percentage, second in assists, sixth in points per game and 24th in rebounds.

The Jayhawks have serious tests upcoming, as they face instate rival Kansas State and faceoff against two ranked Big 12 opponents in Texas A&M and Missouri in their last two games. In its first matchup with Mizzou this season on Feb. 7, Kansas cruised by the Tigers with ease, winning by 17 points.

There are many arguments for Texas to be the No. 1 team. Kansas overtook the top ranking by the slimmest of margins, with one more first-place vote than Texas. Additionally, the Jayhawks have suffered their only loss of the season to the Longhorns. Despite its three loses, Texas is atop the Big 12 standings and remains undefeated in the conference.

Much of Kansas’ success of late can be largely attributed to the play of the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. In a rout of Iowa State on Saturday afternoon, each of the Morris twins contributed significantly. Marcus Morris put up 16 points while grabbing 11 boards and Markieff Morris had 14 points and 11 rebounds, almost identical numbers. The double-double for Markieff was his ninth of the season, which leads the Big 12.

UNC bounces back

North Carolina bounced back from a collapse against rival Duke with a win against Clemson on Saturday afternoon. It was a close battle, but the Tar Heels edged out the Tigers, 64-62.

UNC hoped to avoid déjà vu, as it saw its double-digit lead slip away, similar to its loss against the Blue Devils on Wednesday night.

Sophomore Tar Heels forward John Henson took the game into his own hands, putting up a line of 14 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal. Just like its game against Duke, North Carolina dominated early and saw its lead slip as the second half began.

Henson, in a postgame interview, spoke of the team’s ability to keep their composure and fight back, a lesson, he attributed, which was learned in the loss at Duke.

Freshman Harrison Barnes complimented Henson’s performance with 20 points. Barnes put UNC up 53-51 with three minutes remaining after a posterizing dunk off a spin move in the lane over Tigers sophomore Milton Jennings.

The Tar Heels are set to make a run at the top 10, as they face only one ranked opponent in their last six games, including Duke at home on March 5.

Matt Strong can be reached at [email protected]