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OSU continues push for NCAA tourney with upset win

By Rusty MillerAssociated Press Published: February 11, 2001 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS _ When the NCAA selection committee picks tournament teams, Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien hopes they take a look at what the Buckeyes did Saturday.

"This win helps our portfolio," O'Brien said after his team beat No. 16 Wisconsin 63-58. "Whenever we need to make our case, this will really help us."

Ken Johnson made two foul shots with 41.7 seconds left and Ohio State limited Wisconsin to two free throws in the last four minutes to pull off the Buckeyes' latest upset.

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The Buckeyes (16-8, 7-5 Big Ten) lost their first four games against ranked opponents this season, but have beaten No. 3 Michigan State, No. 14 Iowa and the Badgers in the last two weeks.

"It keeps us in the hunt," O'Brien said. "You survive until the next game. A game like this gives you some impetus for what may happen next month. This one sure helps."

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Brent Darby scored 18 points, Johnson and Brian Brown each had 13 and Sean Connolly added 10 as Ohio State won its third in a row and ended the Badgers' five-game winning streak.

"This was big for us," said Darby, a point guard who also had six rebounds to go with four assists. "To go where we want to go, we had to win today."

Wisconsin (15-6, 6-4 Big Ten), led by 10 points in the first half. The Badgers took a 56-53 lead on Kirk Penney's 3-pointer with 3:59 remaining, but missed their last six shots.

"We didn't execute down the stretch and Ohio State did," Wisconsin coach Brad Soderberg said. "In this league, in a close game, that's the separator."

They still led 58-56 on a pair of foul shots with 2:12 left by Mark Vershaw, who had a team-high 13 points.

After the teams traded misses, Ohio State freshman Zach Williams hit a 15-foot jumper at the 1:15 mark to pull the Buckeyes into a tie.

On its next possession, Wisconsin still had seven seconds left on the shot clock when Vershaw drove to the basket and _ with defender Williams hitting the floor in an attempt to draw a charge _ flipped up an off-balance shot that banged off the rim. Johnson rebounded and was fouled.

Johnson, limping because of a leg injury, made both to give Ohio State the lead for good.

"I was hurting at the end of the game, but the thing about being hurt is you have to be tough mentally," he said. "I didn't want to let us down."

Andy Kowske, who had 10 points, missed a 14-foot baseline jumper for the Badgers with 17 seconds remaining.

"I was not pleased with our shots," Soderberg said. "I would have preferred to attack the rim than to have Andy shoot that. That's a tough shot."

Darby rebounded and was fouled and hit the first shot to make it 61-58. His second bounded long off the rim and Johnson tapped the ball back toward midcourt.

"He made a brilliant play," O'Brien said.

The ball went to Connolly, who was immediately fouled. He made the first but missed the second with 14 seconds left.

The miss ended Connolly's string of 25 consecutive made free throws. He had not missed since Dec. 13.

Wisconsin hit 54 percent of its shots in the first half but just 30 percent (6-of-20) in the second.

O'Brien said he had wanted to remain in a man-to-man defense, but was talked into going to a zone in the second half by his assistant coaches. The move paid off.

"Their changing defenses disrupted our rhythm in the second half," Soderberg said.

Johnson said he hoped another win over another ranked team got the attention of the right people.

"I hope this impresses the selection committee," he said. "But we still have to focus on the next game."

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