EVANSTON -- In an effort to avoid a 1-2 start to Big Ten play, Northwestern (13-3, 1-2 Big Ten) used a late-second-half flurry to keep the game close against Ohio State (11-5, 3-0), before ultimately falling 65-56.
What started as a relatively boring game – punctuated by a Thad Matta technical foul just three minutes into the game – ended in a fast-paced affair just before halftime. A back-and-forth contest for the first 12-or-so minutes of the game, the Buckeyes, who had won six in a row coming in, caught fire, pushing a 17-all game to a 26-17 lead with 4:10 remaining.
Then Gavin Skelly sparked a Northwestern run with back-to-back buckets including a tip-in on a missed Tre Demps fastbreak layup that saw the Wildcats get the game within five. Bryant McIntosh then found Demps on the break for an open corner three to cut Ohio State's lead to just two. It was Northwestern's first three of the game, coming with just 1:50 left in the half.
Just over a minute later, Nathan Taphorn, whose minutes have been cut drastically short during Big Ten play, hit a three to give Northwestern a 27-26 lead at halftime.
But Northwestern failed to capitalize on the momentum it generated to end the first half. Ohio State continued to control play and the tempo, breaking down Northwestern's zone with drives that knifed into the lane. Once they got in the lane, the Buckeyes found open big men for layups and dunks or shooters for wide-open threes.
That formula pushed Ohio State's lead to seven at 57-50 with just over four minutes left after a 6-0 run. But McIntosh did his best to keep the game close, hitting a three on the following possession. He finished with a team-high 15 points. After that three, though, Northwestern went cold and Ohio State continued to execute. After McIntosh's three, the Wildcats scored just three points the rest of the contest.
Northwestern next plays Saturday afternoon at Minnesota (6-9, 0-3).
- Northwestern dominated the offensive glass against Ohio State. The Wildcats finished with 17 second chance points to Ohio State's seven. The damage was done mostly by Dererk Pardon and his seven offensive boards (he had 14 overall). Pardon utilizes his long arms well as he creates space with his lower body and can reach for the ball without committing fouls. Once he grabbed those rebounds, though, Pardon struggled to finish. The freshman scored nine points on 4-11 shooting from the floor.
- For the second-straight game, Northwestern struggled to hit threes at a clip that even resembles its non-conference performance. The Wildcats hit just two threes against Maryland and were just 6-25 from long-range, good enough for 24 percent. Taphorn hit both of his threes and McIntosh added two more. But Demps and Aaron Falzon combined for a miserable 2-15 from deep.
- Similar to the Wildcats' loss to Maryland, Northwestern couldn't hold down its opponent's top perimeter shooter. Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon went off for the Terps just as Ohio State sophomore Kam Williams did. Williams scored 21 points on 8-13 shooting. He was also 5-9 from three.