Johnson’s party lets OSU celebrate

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2000

The Associated Press

Madison, Wis.

Friday, January 14, 2000

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Madison, Wis. – Ken Johnson’s block party stole the show from Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn. Johnson had 13 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots as No. 17 Ohio State got its first road win of the season by holding off Wisconsin 53-51 Thursday night.

Redd and Penn, the Buckeyes’ high-scoring backcourt, went a combined 11-of-30 from the field against the Badgers’ heavy defensive pressure. But Johnson’s offensive rebounding and timely defensive intimidation led the Buckeyes to a tough road win.

”Johnson was always there. He’s a major factor,” Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said.

Johnson limited the Badgers’ inside game and frightened their outside shooters with four second-half blocks. He led the Big Ten in blocks (5.0) entering the game, having blocked seven shots in Ohio State’s last game against Minnesota and he had eight earlier this season against American University.

”I tried to be around the ball a lot and stay active,” said Johnson, who came off his man to make a highlight-reel block on Roy Boone’s 3-point attempt with two minutes left.

”That might have been the first time in his career when he’s had to guard somebody out on the floor, and he stepped up to the challenge,” Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien said. ”I thought that play (against Boone) was phenomenal.”

Penn’s driving layup with 1:09 left turned out to be the game-winner, but Ohio State had to survive two missed 3-pointers by the Badgers in the closing moments, including Kirk Penney’s airball with two seconds to play.

The Buckeyes forced four turnovers and held Wisconsin to four points over the game’s final 5:32.

Penn said the Buckeyes’ run to the Final Four truly began last season when Ohio State beat Wisconsin 78-74 in overtime in Madison.

”This is where it all started for us last season, and hopefully this will start it for us again,” said Penn, who had eight rebounds Thursday.

Wisconsin beat the first three ranked teams that came into the Kohl Center this season. But unlike Texas, Temple and Illinois before them, the Buckeyes (10-3, 2-1 Big Ten) didn’t wilt under the Badgers’ trademark defensive pressure.

Penn and Redd each had 14 points in a matchup of the Big Ten’s best defensive teams. Mark Vershaw had 16 points to lead the Badgers’ struggling offense, which shot 8-for-27 in the second half.

”Aside from our inability to put the ball in the basket, we (did) what we wanted to do,” Bennett said. ”We had enough opportunities. … We just simply couldn’t put the ball down, and that’s very painful.”

Ohio State was criticized for loading its schedule with eight preseason home games against weak opponents. After losing their only previous road games at Kansas and Illinois, the Buckeyes outlasted Wisconsin (9-6, 1-2).

Andy Kowske’s layup with 2:17 to play put Wisconsin up 51-49, but Johnson rebounded Penn’s miss and scored. After Boone missed a wide-open 3-pointer for Wisconsin, Penn drove the baseline and hit a layup to give Ohio State a two-point lead.

”That’s the only time he got by Roy all night,” Bennett lamented.

O’Brien said Penn scored on a play designed for him.

”We just try to put the ball in his hands,” O’Brien said. ”Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, but we think that more often than not, good things are going to happen when he’s got the ball.”

Wisconsin then turned the ball over, but Penn missed a jumper with 10 seconds to play. The Badgers got the ball to Penney, who faked a drive and shot a long 3-pointer that was well short of the rim. Kowske’s tip attempt at the buzzer also missed.

The Badgers led most of the game and had a 28-25 halftime lead, but they missed 12 of their first 15 shots to start the second half. Penn and Redd were a combined 5-of-17 in the first half before recovering to hit big shots in the second.