COLUMBUS - They were due.
For the first time since 1977, Northwestern picked up a victory in Columbus, knocking off Big Ten foe Ohio State 74-72. Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh combined for 38 points en route to NU snapping a 12 game losing streak against the Buckeyes.
The first ten minutes of the game weren’t pretty for the visitors. Northwestern started only 4 of 19 from the field, while Ohio State shot 66 percent over that same stretch. When shots aren’t falling, you turn to your star to keep you in games and that’s exactly what the Wildcats did: McIntosh scored nine of Northwestern’s first 15 points to keep NU in the game despite the drastic disparity in efficiency.
However, the Wildcats found their footing as the half progressed and led 36-31 at intermission. They closed the gap in shooting percentage despite shooting only 3 of 13 from long range, and got to the line eight times compared to the Buckeyes one free throw attempt.
Despite struggling early on the offensive side of the ball Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Dererk Pardon all helped keep Northwestern in the game defensively and on the glass. In the first half, NU turned Ohio State over eight times and out-rebounded them six to three on the offensive boards. In Pardon’s fifth game back from injury he struggled to find a rhythm offensively but pulled down 8 rebounds, dished out 4 assists and blocked 2 shots.
Ohio State made a quick push back to start the second half, jumping out to an immediate 5-0 run and tying the game at 36. The two sides went back and forth for the remainder of the second half, with Northwestern again finding their offensive groove as the half progressed.
It looked as if Ohio State might pull away after C.J. Jackson crossed Law out of his shoes and nailed a three pointer in transition to put the home side up 55-52 at the 8:42 mark. However, with the help of two big buckets from Isiah Brown, Northwestern answered with an 11-3 run to go up 63-58 with just under three minutes remaining.
The Wildcats never looked back. Free throw shooting was the difference down the stretch; Northwestern shot 11 of 12 from the line in the final 1:19 of the game. The visitors were able to withstand an onslaught of Ohio State three pointers late to hang on and secure a key road victory.
Northwestern is back in Evanston later this week to take on Nebraska for the second time in the season. The Wildcats took down the Cornhuskers 74-66 in Nebraska on Jan. 8.
- A big part of Northwestern’s offensive struggles in the first half were due to poor shot selection. The Wildcats pride themselves on their ability to space the floor at nearly every position, but patience and ball movement will yield more consistent offensive success than contested three-point looks. Look at this difference between the first ten minutes and final ten minutes of the first half:
First ten minutes: 15 points, 4 of 19 shooting (2 of 9 from three)
Final ten minutes: 21 points, 10 of 14 shooting (1 of 4 from three)
Credit Ohio State’s defense for forcing Northwestern into a lot of bad shots, though.
- The pang of fear that knifed through my heart when Lindsey hobbled off the floor after twisting his knee late in the first half is a reminder that, as good as this team has been, an injury to any of their key contributors would be devastating, especially considering the stakes of this season. Take nothing for granted.
- Pardon looked awful offensively in this one, despite making an impact defensively and on the glass. He had a number of miscues handling the ball and the addition of the mid-range jumper to his offensive arsenal doesn’t appear to be working thus far. Him being any kind of presence offensively would do wonders for the Wildcats as conference play rolls on.
- Brown was hugely important in the first and second half. In the first he ate up 10 minutes with McIntosh in foul trouble and was solid on both ends. In the second, he had his own personal 4-0 run with a nice drive late in the shot clock and a steal and score.