Shorthanded Ohio State Knocks off Northwestern
#21 Ohio State, playing without the services of half of their backcourt, pulled away from Northwestern midway through the first half and fended off a late Wildcat charge to come away with an 81-71 victory in the Schottenstein Center. Playing for the first time in front of a small group of fans, primarily family, the Buckeyes moved to 4-3 in Big Ten play and 10-3 overall. Ohio State put four in double figures, led by Duane Washington’s career high 23 and 6 assists. Justice Sueing added 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Kyle Young added 12 to go along with 9 boards and Justin Ahrens scored 12 on 4 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc. E.J. Liddell struggled through a tough shooting night to score 6, all from the stripe, but did add 10 rebounds in a winning effort. The Buckeyes shot 50% from the floor on this night including 40% from long range, while holding Northwestern to just under 40% shooting and 6 of 23 from three.
Justin Ahrens opened the scoring with a triple from the right wing off a post pass from E.J. Liddell to put Ohio State up 3. Northwestern scored the next six, all from Chase Audige, who used his quickness against Ahrens. Duane Washington scored the next five for Ohio State, including a cold blooded three from the top to put the Buckeyes up 8-6, but Audige struck again, drilling a triple to give the Wildcats a 9-8 lead at the first break. Justice Sueing put the Buckeyes back ahead with a spin move into a 12-foot jumper and Washington found the bottom from long range to put the Buckeyes up four. Northwestern would come right back, scoring the next six, four from Audige, to go ahead by a pair. Washington drilled another three to put the Buckeyes up by a point, but it didn’t last long as Audige knocked down another jumper to put Northwestern back on top. A Sueing three from the left wing put the Buckeyes back up two and at the under 12 minute media timeout, Ohio State led 19-17 and Northwestern guard Chase Audige had 15 of the Wildcats 17 points. A Zed Key put back followed by Washington finding Kyle Young at the block for a pair put the Buckeyes up six and after a Wildcat score, Washington was fouled attempting a triple and buried all three free throws to give Ohio State their largest lead so far at 26-19. The Wildcats cut the lead to four before Meechie Johnson scored his first points as a Buckeye with a triple from the right corner and Key split a pair of free throws to put Ohio State up eight. A Northwestern transition dunk cut the lead to 6, but Justice Sueing in transition, scored at the rim to put Ohio State right back up 8 at the final media timeout of the half. A pair of Wildcat free throws cut it to six but Ahrens buried a three to put Ohio State back up nine. Washington upped the lead to 11 when he knifed to the rim for a lay in. The Wildcats trimmed the lead back to eight, but Johnson drilled his second triple of the game to put the Buckeyes back up 11. Audige of Northwestern scored his 20th and 21st point of the half at the rim as the clock expired and the teams hit the locker room with Ohio State holding a 42-33 advantage. The Buckeyes were led by Duane Washington’s 17 and Justice Sueing chipped in 9, all the while E.J. Liddell had not scored yet still led by 11. Chase Audige, who scored a season high 21 first half points to keep the ‘Cats relatively close, led Northwestern. The difference in the first half was the three point shooting. Ohio State knocked down 8 of 18 attempts, while Northwestern really struggled, hitting only 1 of 11 of their attempts beyond the arc.
The Wildcats cut the lead to seven as Ohio State went the first 3 minutes without a field goal, but Justin Ahrens ended that drought with a triple from the right wing to put the Buckeyes back up 10. After Northwestern cut the lead back to 8, Zed Key tipped in his own miss to put Ohio State back up double digits and that was the score differential at the first media timeout of the first half. Sueing hit a 10 footer fading to his left on the baseline and Washington found Young with a lob for a dunk and Ohio State led by 13. The Wildcats came roaring back, going on an 8-0 run over the next minute plus to cut the lead to five. E.J. Liddell knocked down 3 of 4 free throw attempts on back to back possessions to put Ohio State up 8. Twice the Wildcats cut it to six, but each time Ohio State answered, first from a Key dunk off a nifty pass from Washington and second, Washington scored off the bounce high off the glass and Chris Holtmann got a timeout with Ohio State leading 60-52 and 10:44 remaining. Musa Jallow jumped a passing lane on the next Wildcat possession and raced to the other end for a dunk for Ohio State’s first points off a turnover. After a Northwestern miss, Kyle Young scored at the block and Northwestern called timeout with Ohio State up 64-52. A 6-1 Northwestern run trimmed the deficit to 7 before Kyle Young scored with a half hook on the baseline to put Ohio State back up 9. The Wildcats would keep coming, scoring the next 8 and all of a sudden the lead was just one forcing Chris Holtmann to call timeout with Ohio State leading 67-66 and 4:05 remaining. A big Ahrens triple put Ohio State back up 4 and off a long rebound, Sueing took it the other way for a score. After a Wildcat miss, Kyle Young scored while being fouled and knocked down the free throw to complete the three point play and Ohio State led by 9 and on a 8-0 run forcing Northwestern to call timeout. The run continued out of the timeout as Washington scored off the glass and knocked down a pair of free throws on the next possession to put Ohio State up 13 with 1 minute to go. A Wildcat triple ended the 12-0 run and cut the lead to 10 but that’s as close as they would get as Ohio State stymied the late Wildcat charge with a run of their own to end it.
Playing without point guards, C.J. Walker and Jimmy Sotos, the Buckeyes needed Washington to step up and run the point and he stepped up in a big way. It wasn’t only his scoring numbers, but he got the ball where it needed to be, made great decisions and helped close the game down the stretch when Northwestern was putting on a charge. The contributions of early enrollee Meechie Johnson in this one was also a big lift for Ohio State. He looked confident and under control and the pair of threes he knocked down in the first half were instrumental in helping keep Northwestern at arm’s length. We aren’t sure how long Walker and Sotos will be out, but in the interim, they are going to need both of those players along with Justice Sueing to command the offense.
Ohio State will go on the road on Saturday to face #14 Illinois, as it doesn’t get any easier in this league. Tip time for that game is scheduled for Noon eastern and televised on Fox.