Despite leading for the vast majority of the game, Northwestern men's basketball (16-9, 4-8 B1G) fell to Ohio State (15-10, 7-5 B1G) 71-63. In their last 31 trips to Columbus, the ‘Cats have exactly zero wins.
Four and a half minutes into the game Tuesday, Ohio State’s Marc Loving hit a three-pointer to give his team a 9-6 lead. After Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh hit a three of his own to tie the game with 14:05 left to play in the first half, Ohio State never led again. Until Keita Bates-Diop hit a jumper with just under six minutes to play in the game. Then the Buckeyes never trailed again.
Perhaps carrying over from their important win over Minnesota last week, the Wildcats put together a solid first half, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc and collecting 25 rebounds, 10 of which were on the offensive glass. Gavin Skelly stood out in particular, grabbing seven of those boards while adding three points. Ohio State, meanwhile, shot only 33.3 percent from long range, and snagged 15 total rebounds. Northwestern headed into the break with a 33-26 lead.
But the Buckeyes came to play in the second stanza. Northwestern actually shot the ball better in the second half, improving to nearly 41 percent from the floor. The Buckeyes, however, shot over 46 percent from the floor and hit 16 of their 17 foul shots. They only turned the ball over once and allowed Northwestern to shoot only two foul shots, en route to a 15-point second half scoring difference (45-30).
Ohio State held a decisive edge in most advanced statistics as well. The Buckeyes generated more points off turnovers, second chance points and fast break points than the Wildcats, the last of which is a category Northwestern often wins. Most noticeably, the Buckeyes dominated the interior of the floor – even though Northwestern won the rebounding battle 38-34, Ohio State scored 14 more points in the paint.
Northwestern’s inability to score down low meant it had to rely on the long-range shots even more so than usual. Indeed, exactly half of the Wildcats’ 54 shot attempts originated from beyond the arc. Further, they only hit nine shots from inside. Ohio State connected on a respectable 33.3 percent of its three-pointers, but reliable inside shooting helped the Buckeyes' shooting percentage rise up to 41 percent.
After the win over Minnesota, Bryant McIntosh described how much fun he has when both he and Tre Demps play well. He didn’t seem to enjoy himself nearly as much Tuesday. Both guards finished with 14 points, but they combined to shoot under 31 percent from the field. 12 of McIntosh’s points came from beyond the arc. He didn’t have his best game, but Alex Olah still nearly contributed a double-double with 11 points and nine boards. Scottie Lindsey turned in a promising performance, making four of his six shots for 10 points.
Ohio State had five players score in double figures, and four of those players recorded at least six rebounds. Trevor Thompson in particular dominated down low, picking up 12 points on 50 percent shooting, while adding nine boards. JaQuan Lyle led either team with 16 points to go with six boards.
If Northwestern still wants to make the NIT, it will probably have to win at least five of its last six games, if not all six. The good news for the ‘Cats is that most of the games are winnable. They just have to win them. Next on the docket is in-state rival Illinois on February 13 before visits to Purdue and Michigan in the coming weeks.