It took 39 games, but the Wisconsin men’s hockey team finally reached a new record low.In a season filled with struggles, the Badgers came up empty-handed yet again, this time by way of a 2-0 defeat against Ohio State at the Kohl Center in the final regular season game of the year.The defeat pushed the Badgers to their 25th loss of the 2014-15 campaign, surpassing the 24 losses of the 1975-76 Badger squad, which was the previous high for most setbacks in one season.Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said he liked the effort of his players Saturday night, but that didn’t translate into the desired outcome.“There’s not one young man in that locker room that didn’t want to play really well tonight,” Eaves said. “But it just didn’t happen.”Not surprisingly as the third lowest scoring team in the nation, Wisconsin (4-25-5, 2-15-3-2 Big Ten) failed to find the back of the net and got shut out for the fifth time in the last seven games.But Ohio State (13-18-3, 8-11-1-1) couldn’t solve Joel Rumpel either, and the teams remained scoreless almost until the halfway point of the tilt. But before the teams reached that halfway mark, OSU struck for the only goal it needed. OSU’s David Gust slid a backhanded centering feed to the front of the net, and Tyler Lundey slammed the pack into a vacated net with Rumpel down and out to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead 8:54 into the second.Although that proved the pivotal score, Eaves said the turning point of the game came when UW’s Cameron Hughes sustained an upper body injury. Jedd Soleway had trouble getting into the bench after he had gotten hurt earlier in the sequence, and when Hughes skated by the bench with the puck, he got slammed hard into the open door. Hughes left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return, although Soleway did return to the game.“I thought he broke his arm,” Eaves said. “The anguish in his face was pretty good and that just was typical of the night.”Already down a goal and one player, Wisconsin lost senior Matt Paape with less than five minutes to go in the second period when he took a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check from behind.The Buckeyes couldn’t score on the subsequent extended man advantage, but the Wisconsin offense continued its own struggles after it got back to even strength.The Badgers managed just 17 total shots in the game, the sixth time this season they have failed to record at least 20. According to Eaves, Rumpel was the big reason Wisconsin managed to even stay in the game, as the senior stopped 32 of 34 shots in the final two periods in his last home game.Ohio State would tack on an insurance goal with a little less than 10 minutes to play when Matthew Weis zipped a shot past Rumpel from the left wing on a sharp angle.But despite yet another loss this year, Rumpel and the rest of the Badgers remained optimistic after the game, with their eye on the team they will meet in the first game of the Big Ten tournament next Thursday.“They better watch out,” Rumpel said.Wisconsin will take on third-seeded Michigan Thursday in Detroit in the first round of the conference tournament.Badgers salvage tie with Buckeyes Friday nightThe Wisconsin men’s hockey team played the second 30 minutes of Friday night’s game against Ohio State like there was no tomorrow after it was nowhere to be found in the first half of the series-opening contest.But after falling down a goal twice in game one of their last home stand of the season, the Badgers never quit against Ohio State, battling the Buckeyes to a 2-2 draw and a shootout that OSU won in the tenth round.Both teams got out to a slow start in the first period, especially the Badgers, who registered only six shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. Fortunately, Wisconsin goaltender Landon Peterson, who started in place of the usual starter Rumpel, played well to keep the game scoreless heading into the second.While the Badgers finished strong, Eaves was unhappy with how his team came out to start the game.“It becomes a balance act. For a period and a half, we were disappointed,” Eaves said. “We looked distracted. We didn’t look like we were ready to play in the first period.”Wisconsin senior captain Brad Navin agreed.“We had guys who didn’t show up until halfway through the game,” Navin said.The weekend was also Wisconsin’s senior weekend, which Eaves said may have distracted his team a bit at the start of the game.Wisconsin’s play improved in the second period, but that did not prevent the Buckeyes from taking the lead 13 minutes into the period. Lundey scored on a rebound to give the Buckeyes a one goal lead that they would take into the final period.Wisconsin seniors Navin and Peterson made their senior weekends memorable in the final period. Three minutes in, Navin connected on a power play goal to tie the game and snap Wisconsin’s 183-minute goal drought. After an Ohio State goal put the Buckeyes ahead again, Navin tied it up again for the Badgers with 3:57 to play, giving him a two-goal game. Peterson may have been the biggest hero of the night, making a brilliant save on an Ohio State breakaway that came with just more than a minute left in the game.After a scoreless overtime, Ohio State prevailed in a shootout that does not count toward the teams’ NCAA records, but gives the Buckeyes an extra point in the Big Ten standings.
Williamson, oddly, also reigned over this one with his absence.MORE: Sporting News’ 2018-19 All-Americans“He’s always meant a lot, both on the court and off the court,” Duke junior forward Jack White told Sporting News. “Off the court, he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, funny guys, and just a great teammate. As good of a player as he is on the court, he’s just as good off the court. Obviously we miss him and what he brings on the court.”He’s an unbelievable player. What he does for us, just his versatility, his relentlessness, his willingness to fight and win is pretty tough to match.”Williamson also is the Sporting News Freshman of the Year, an honor won last season by Oklahoma’s Trae Young. It was not terribly difficult to reach this conclusion, given Williamson also was superior to all the seniors, juniors and sophomores.“He’s better than I thought he would be,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski told Fox Sports’ Evan Daniels. “This guy is an amazing kid. He’s upbeat all the time, and he’s been a great worker. Everyone sees him as a dunker and how high he can jump, but he’s an incredible athlete in lateral quickness. His feet, great hands, his ability to second jump and move side to side. I didn’t know all those things. I knew he could really jump, and he was going to be really good.”When he played — from the night he stormed into the nation’s basketball consciousness in Duke’s destruction of Kentucky with 28 points, seven rebounds and a court-length bounce pass that looked like something out of an “Avengers” movie to the moment he burst through his shoe like the Incredible Hulk — Zion presented himself as a force never before seen at the Division I level. He produced numbers that seemed impossible, such as his 75 percent shooting on 2-point attempts. He produced moments that seemed inhuman, such as his flying close-out to reject a long-distance jumper from Virginia star De’Andre Hunter.He scored 18 points, passed for five assists, grabbed three steals and three blocks in that win at UVA. He didn’t foul once. In the first meeting, it was 27 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block. He was 10-of-16 from the field against the nation’s No. 3 defense. He scored 32 against N.C. State. He had 17 rebounds against Boston College.In short, he has been at the heart of Duke’s success on both offense and defense. When the Devils recovered from 23 points down inside the final 10 minutes at Louisville, Cardinals players actively turned away from challenging him even though he was wearing four personal fouls at the time.Zion has played with a captivating, infectious zeal that endeared him not only to coaches, teammates and Duke fans, but also to professional scouts eager to employ him and agency representatives who flocked to his games.MORE: Quit the comparisons: Zion is something basketball has never seenHonestly, even his opponents speak of Zion with reverence.“His ability to rebound, to carve out space is what jumps off the page,” Pitt assistant coach Jason Capel told SN. “But the kid competes. He plays with a passion. When you see him in person, just how big he is, how fast he is and how explosive he is, and the fact he has a motor, that’s a scary combination in college basketball.”We hope you’re impressed we made it this far without reminding you just how big he is. For the record, Zion is listed at 6-7, 285 pounds. It never has seemed possible that someone built like an NFL defensive end should be able to play the game as though he’d borrowed David Thompson’s hops, Dominique Wilkins’ flair and Blake Griffin’s manic intensity. This is what we’ve seen, though.He has averaged 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds. Those numbers are depressed by the fact that his appearance in the first North Carolina game, Feb. 20, counts against him, even though he lasted a half-minute before his injury occurred. That cost Zion nearly a point off his scoring average and almost half a rebound.It hardly matters. As impressive as the numbers can be — oh, yeah, one more: Duke has lost only twice when he made a full appearance — the story of Zion is one told through accounts of his uncommon feats. If he were born a half-century earlier, he would have inspired some sort of unforgettable nickname like Clyde, Pearl or Pistol. His exploits would be discussed on playgrounds and over beers and would gradually grow more extravagant as the stories were repeated.Instead, he arrived on this earth in July 2000 (my goodness, he won’t turn 19 until his freshman year at Duke is complete) and his parents wisely gave him his own unforgettable first name that need not be usurped. And his fame does not broaden through worth of mouth. He has Instagram and YouTube to spread the gospel of his wondrous deeds. Video does not romanticize his many feats, but the reality inherent in the medium somehow accentuates the anomaly that is Zion. “Obviously we miss him,” teammate Cam Reddish told SN. “He’s one of the best players in the world right now.”OK, so maybe Zion’s legend is enhanced by the spoken word.Sporting News’ Blair Berry contributed to this report. He has missed six games now, and yet, as each one passed, Zion Williamson’s stature as a college basketball player somehow grew even more profound. With him, the Duke Blue Devils were an overwhelming force that blew out Kentucky, swept Virginia and frightened Louisville into surrendering a 23-point lead. Without him, they have been a .500 team.It’s not often a player who misses 16 percent of his team’s season is considered for an honor as prestigious as Sporting News Player of the Year. An award that dates back 76 years — and that has been the property of George Mikan, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Jalen Brunson — ordinarily is presented to a player who has dominated a season with his presence.