Though the 70-53 score reflects nothing more than another Ohio State (21-6, 8-6 Big Ten) blowout of Northwestern (12-15, 5-9 Big Ten), the Wednesday matchup between the Wildcats and Buckeyes was quite unique.
Northwestern raced out to a 25-16 lead on an Alex Olah jumper with 7:24 remaining in the first half, looking like the team that was briefly fourth in the conference earlier this year. However, the Buckeyes regrouped and a flurry of points from LaQuinton Ross made it a 33-37 lead for OSU heading into halftime. Ohio State then surged ahead in the second half, going up by as many as 21 points before the game took a surprisingly hostile turn.
The momentum clearly swung, as Northwestern couldn’t score for nearly the first four minutes of the second half while the Buckeyes built a sizeable lead.
A late scuffle between Ross and Nikola Cerina led to both players being tossed and the two teams shooting a combined 10 free-throw attempts due to the altercation. Ross left the game having poured in 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting along with six rebounds, while Cerina went scoreless off the bench and accrued five fouls.
The Wildcats, as usual, were led in scoring by Drew Crawford, who dropped 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting despite battling some foul trouble. Crawford had his rhythm from beyond the arc, making four threes, but he could not get to the foul line much against Ohio State’s elite defense.
Tre Demps was also effective offensively, scoring 14 points off the pine, but he was the only Wildcat besides Crawford in double figures.
Ohio State ranks eighth in the nation in points allowed per game at 58.5, and while Northwestern finished a hair above that, the team shot just 23.8 percent from deep on 21 attempts.
The bigger, more physical Buckeyes also hammered Northwestern on the glass, grabbing 11 more boards, and shot a scalding 43.8 percent from distance. OSU point guard Aaron Craft, one of the nation’s elite perimeter defenders, locked down JerShon Cobb who finished with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting and missed all five of his threes.
Once again, former starting point guard Dave Sobolewski was barely a part of the rotation. He played just two minutes in the game, and it seems Chris Collins is totally comfortable letting Cobb, Demps and Crawford split the ball-handling duties for now.
The loss was the Wildcats’ fourth in a row, and after a period of optimism from ‘Cats fans it seems the Northwestern basketball team is back to its losing ways.
Columbus is undoubtedly a tough place to win, particularly for a team like Northwestern who does not have top-shelf talent, but the fact that the ‘Cats let a solid lead dwindle makes the loss sting. Up next for NU is a tilt with the reeling Indiana Hoosiers (14-11, 4-8 Big Ten), while Ohio State has a matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-10, 4-8 Big Ten).