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Northwestern vs. Ohio State rapid reaction: Buckeyes edge Wildcats 71-65

The Buckeyes bullied the Wildcats inside to get the win.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite holding Keita Bates-Diop to 10 points, Northwestern (11-9, 2-5) fell to Ohio State (16-4, 7-0) 71-65 in a tight one at Allstate Arena. Five Wildcats scored in double figures, but the perimeter trio of Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey combined to shoot just 15-of-41 in the loss. On the other end, Ohio State outrebounded Northwestern by 13 and scored 30 points in the paint.

The Wildcats opened in a zone, flummoxing the Buckeyes early. As a result, Ohio State started the game 2-of-9 from the field. Northwestern struggled with the Buckeye’s size, however, giving up six offensive rebounds and 16 points in the paint in the first half. The Wildcats also couldn’t keep Ohio State off the line, allowing nine free throw attempts. Perhaps the only real positive for the team defensively was the job it did on redshirt junior Bates-Diop. A strong candidate to win Big Ten Player of the Year, Bates-Diop shot just 2-of-6 in the first half, facing several different players as a result of the zone.

Northwestern’s offense, coming off the absolute stinker against Indiana on Sunday, sputtered out of the gate. After opening the game on a 6-0 run, the Wildcats were outscored 33-19 in the first half. The Buckeyes’ size and length bothered Northwestern, causing the Wildcats to miss three layups and commit seven turnovers. Gavin Skelly had a strong first half, scoring nine points on an array of perimeter jump shots and drives to the basket. The team’s ball movement was also excellent in the first half, where the Wildcats assisted on nine of 10 field goals. Despite shooting a ghastly 37 percent from the field, Northwestern only trailed by eight at halftime.

While the Wildcats’ offense perked up to start the second half, Ohio State’s was even better. Six different Buckeyes scored in the first eight minutes of the second frame to extend their lead to 15. Sophomore center Micah Potter was phenomenal, hitting his first four shots of the second half, including a triple. The Buckeyes’ ball movement stretched Northwestern’s defense thin, assisting on 11 of 14 made field goals.

The Wildcats put up a fight, though. Following a quiet opening period, Dererk Pardon threw down two impressive and-one dunks, finding success at the basket. Anthony Gaines gave Northwestern a spark off the bench, canning two triples and converting an acrobatic layup to keep the Wildcats within striking distance.

A couple of three-pointers from Law and Lindsey trimmed the deficit to just three with less than a minute to play, but Northwestern was unable to make it all the way back, falling to 2-5 in conference play. With 11 games left in the regular season and no statement wins, it’s looking bleak for the Wildcats.

Northwestern will resume conference play on Saturday against Penn State (13-7, 3-4) at Allstate Arena. In their first matchup with the Nittany Lions, the Wildcats were thumped 78-63 at the Bryce Jordan Center.