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Saturday's Big Ten: Liddell leads No. 15 Ohio State past No. 10 Wisconsin

Steve Megargee
Associated Press

Madison, Wis. — Ohio State is capitalizing on the lack of fans at Big Ten games this season to take down one ranked opponent after another on the road.

E.J. Liddell scored 20 points and the 15th-ranked Buckeyes never trailed in a 74-62 victory over No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday. Ohio State has beaten Top 15 teams in each of its last three road games.

Ohio State's E.J. Liddell rebounds over Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers during the second half.

“I just feel like when we go on the road, we have a different mindset,” said Liddell, who also had seven rebounds. “We’ve got to stay connected throughout the whole time because they’re going to have their runs. It’s their place. They’re used to it. They practice here every day. We just have to stay connected.”

The Buckeyes (12-4, 6-4 Big Ten) beat then-No. 15 Rutgers on Jan. 9 and then–No. 14 Illinois on Jan. 16. Illinois is now 22nd and Rutgers unranked.

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann acknowledges that road atmospheres aren’t quite the same this season with the pandemic causing games to take place in empty arenas. But he still didn’t want to diminish the magnitude of beating a Top 10 team anywhere.

“It’s a great win regardless because of the competition,” Holtmann said. “I totally get it. It’s very much different. I think every environment is a neutral environment. That’s just the reality.”

Ohio State also got a lift from a change in gear, as they played in their new dark gray alternate uniforms for the first time.

“We all felt it when we put the jerseys on, we all felt these superpowers,” joked Ohio State’s Seth Towns, who scored 10 points.

Wisconsin (12-4, 6-3) lost for just the second time in its last 20 home games. The Badgers’ only other home loss during this stretch was a 70-64 decision Dec. 28 against Maryland.

Aleem Ford scored 13 points to lead Wisconsin, which also got 12 from D’Mitrik Trice and 11 each from Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.

Ohio State took control of this game early and built a 13-point lead early in the second half.

“They hit some tough shots early, but we also gave them some easier ones,’ Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. ”That gave them the confidence, and they played off that pretty much the whole game.”

Wisconsin cut Ohio State’s lead to 62-58 with 4:48 left when Aleem Ford made three straight 3-pointers in a span of less than two minutes. Wisconsin had gone just 4 of 21 from 3-point range until Ford’s flurry.

Ford finally cooled off and missed a 3-point attempt that would have reduced the margin to one with 4:02 remaining. Ohio State’s Duane Washington Jr. hit a pair of free throws 22 seconds later to start a 6-0 run that essentially put the game out of reach.

More Saturday Big Ten

Maryland 63, (at) Minnesota 49: Maryland paid another destructive visit to a Top 25 foe, leaving No. 17 Minnesota as the latest team that would have been wise to request a damage deposit.

The only breaks on this loaded Big Ten schedule have come by COVID-19-prompted postponements.

Eric Ayala had 21 points and three steals to help Maryland deliver another road upset of a ranked Big Ten opponent.

“I wish we could bottle it all up and play that way every time, but we haven’t been able to do that yet,” said Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon, whose team never led by less than six in the second half.

Donta Scott added 15 points and 11 rebounds and Aaron Wiggins had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Terrapins (9-7, 3-6), who set a tenacious tone from the jump with strong perimeter pressure, long arms to deny the lanes and post traps to keep the Gophers out of sync.

Senior guard Darryl Morsell was the catalyst. He declared the bold goal of holding Minnesota under 50 points during one second-half timeout, an ambition even Turgeon dismissed at the time.

“We kind of tried to pride ourselves in the defense,” Morsell said. “We understand with this team this year it’s going to be a lot different.”

Carr scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Gophers (11-5, 4-5), who lost at home for the first time in 12 games this season. The rest of their starting backcourt, Gabe Kalscheur and Both Gach, combined for two points on 0-for-10 shooting. Liam Robbins had six points on 2-for-6 shooting before the 7-footer fouled out.

“If you’re going to have that, you better be phenomenal defensively,” coach Richard Pitino said.

The players in the visiting bench area made all the noise in the mostly empty arena, yelling “Boom!” every time a Terrapins 3-pointer went in. Turgeon, after one sequence on defense resulted in a block at the shot-clock buzzer, pumped his arm and crouched at the knees on the edge of the court.

With only a few dozen family members in the maroon seats, this was exactly the kind of game the Gophers could have used a crowd to get them going. Even their normally sound pick-and-roll coverage leaked, springing Ayala and others for uncontested layups.

“That’s probably the slowest we ever came out to a game,” forward Brandon Johnson said. “We just made the mistake of thinking everything was just going to come easy.”

Minnesota didn’t need a reminder about Maryland’s potential, having squandered a 16-point second-half lead in a 74-73 loss here last year on Morsell’s last-second 3-pointer. For all their struggles in this virus-interrupted season, the Terps already had two of the Big Ten’s best wins: at No. 10 Wisconsin and at No. 22 Illinois.

Maryland built a football-like 17-3 lead, until Carr’s 3-pointer past the 12-minute mark of the first half. Minnesota’s only bursts of success came when Carr twisted his way to the hoop, and his jumper in the paint with 6:31 left cut the lead to 20-17 – the closest all game.

“What a great player he is,” Turgeon said, “but he really had to work.”

(At) Penn State 81, Northwestern 78: Izaiah Brockington scored 21 points including a pair of late free throws to help Penn State hold off Northwestern. Penn State (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) has won consecutive games since ending a five-game losing streak. Northwestern (6-8, 3-7) has lost seven straight, six against ranked teams.

Penn State’s Seth Lundy made a 3-pointer to spark a 10-0 run for a 79-73 lead with 1:10 remaining. Pete Nance hit a 3 and Miller Kopp made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to pull the Wildcats to 79-78. Brockington added two free throws with seven seconds to play before Chase Audige missed a potential tying 3 at the buzzer.

Lundy finished with 16 points for the Nittany Lions. Myreon Jones added 15 points and Sam Sessoms had 12. Lundy and Jones combined for five of the Nittany Lions’ nine 3-pointers. Jones surpassed 100 career made 3s (101).

Kopp scored 19 points to lead Northwestern. Boo Buie added 18 points, Nance had 17 and Ryan Young 10.

Northwestern has lost three straight at the Bryce Jordan Center. Its last win at Penn State was a 87-77 victory on Dec. 27, 2016. The Wildcats upset the 20th-ranked Nittany Lions in their last matchup, 80-69 last season.

Northwestern hosts Rutgers on Jan. 31. Penn State hosts seventh-ranked Michigan on Wednesday.