MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin senior Joe Krabbenhoft has never been a flashy player during his years on campus. Anytime he gets publicity, it's through grit, hard work and discipline that is usually unmatched by anyone else on the floor.
In Saturday's critical match-up with No. 24 Ohio State, it was Krabbenhoft's all-around game that led the Badgers to a much needed and hard-fought 55-50 win over the Buckeyes.
"He's Joe," fellow senior Marcus Landry, who led the team with 17 points, said in reference to Krabbenhoft's nine-point, eight-rebound, four-assist and career high six-steal performance. "He's always the type of guy that delivers and you can always count on him."
With just over two minutes to play and his team trailing by one, Krabbenhoft hit arguably the biggest three-point shot of his collegiate career.
As the shot clock was winding down, freshman guard Jordan Taylor drove the lane, ran into trouble and dished to an open Krabbenhoft who calmly sunk the bucket that gave UW a lead it would not relinquish.
"The shot clock was down so I had to put it up and made sure the guys were down there in rebounding position so it was not a bad shot," Krabbenhoft said following the win. "Jordan (Taylor) did a great job at driving down the lane and getting a couple guys to go with him, because I am sure they were not too worried about me out there.
"So, I just put it up there and it went down."
But work was still left to be done if the Badgers were going to win their fourth consecutive game, especially with the second half play of Ohio State star Evan Turner.
After Turner scored only eight points in the first half, the stud forward found his scoring touch in the final 20 minutes by scoring 15 points. Still, Krabbenhoft forced him into committing six second-half turnovers, mostly by taking away his right hand.
"I was just trying to keep him from getting to the rim," Krabbenhoft said. "He's so good with his right hand, maybe the best of anybody that I've ever played with that first step to his right. But I would jump that and then he'd spin back."
By forcing Turner to spin back, Krabbenhoft had spun Turner into a position where fellow Badgers would help out and force a turnover as he was in a vulnerable position.
None were bigger than Turner's final turnover with only 47 seconds left to play and Ohio State down only two. When Krabbenhoft forced Turner to spin near the left wing, point guard Trevon Hughes poked the ball away and Krabbenhoft recovered the loose ball, from there on out it became a free throw shooting contest.
"(We were) getting a little help to him," UW head coach Bo Ryan, who has never lost to Ohio State in the Kohl Center, said in reference to his team's defensive pressure on Turner in the waning minutes. "Squeeze the territory. You know, a guy can't operate as well in a four-foot area as he can in a 10-foot area, so you have to sink, pinch and rotate. Do those type of things."
Then, to cap off one of his best performances of the season, Krabbenhoft hit both free throws in the bonus to give UW a four-point lead with 37 seconds to play.
Including Krabbenhoft's shots from the line, the Badgers went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 37 seconds to ice the game.
"Guys wanted the ball in their hands," Krabbenhoft said. "Guys wanted to step up to the free throw line. We got a bunch of great free throw shooters out there. Really, they can't pick and chose who they want to foul because you foul any of us, we all want to be there.
"We all want to help the team win."
In a first half that was one of the more physical periods of the season, UW was led by forward Marcus Landry who scored half of the teams points in the opening frame.
Though every basket was tough to come by early on, UW was able to capitalize through its ability to haul in the boards.
In the first half alone, the Badgers had 10 offensive rebounds. By the end, they had out-rebounded the Buckeyes by a 32-22 margin overall and 15-3 on the offensive glass.
"It felt good," Landry, who chipped in seven rebounds of his own, said. "With a rebounding team like that, with their size and things like that. But we were very active on the glass today and it paid off for us.
"It gave us a second chance to score, so it really worked out in our favor today."
After its big win in front of a national television audience, the Badgers will head out on the road for tilts at Indiana next Thursday and at Michigan State on Feb. 22.
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