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Rapid Reaction: Buckeyes handle Wildcats, 71-59

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Northwestern couldn’t find the breakthrough it sorely needed.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON — The Wildcats (6-13, 1-8 B1G) remained close but were ultimately held off by the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6 B1G).

Miller Kopp led the ‘Cats in scoring with 20, going 8 for 17 from the field. Pat Spencer and Boo Buie added 13 and 10, respectively.

For the Buckeyes, a three-point heavy attack guided the offense. OSU scored over half of its field goals from beyond the arc, and D.J. Carton and Andre Wesson scored 17 and 11 each.

Both squads came into Sunday evening’s affair looking to snap losing streaks. The Buckeyes had lost six of their previous seven contests and had shifted from a top five team to a bubble NCAA Tournament outfit. The young ‘Cats meanwhile had lost three in a row and were searching for their second Big Ten win of the season.

OSU committed three turnovers early and missed its first five field goals of the game, allowing the ‘Cats to go up 7-0. A bucket from Andre Wesson finally put Chris Holtmann’s squad on the board after three minutes had gone.

Northwestern maintained its seven point lead as Kopp found his rhythm, but coming out of a timeout the Buckeyes found their shot. OSU went on an 8-0 run that squashed the NU lead and served as a statement that the ‘Bucks were finally ready to go.

With six minutes left and the game tied at 19, Pete Nance was called for a questionable blocking foul. An emotional Chris Collins was given a technical foul, and Andre Wesson hit his free throws to complete a four point swing before the Buckeyes went on another 8-0 run, highlighted by triples from Andre and D.J. Carton.

Kopp brought the ‘Cats closer with a triple and a deep two, and despite the turnovers, the ‘Cats found themselves down 38-35 at the half.

Coming out of the break, Spencer hit a deep three to tie the game at 38. The Buckeyes responded with a triple from Kaleb Wesson after a miscommunication on the boards between Kopp and A.J. Turner, but the Buckeyes struggled from the field early in the second half, going one for their first seven on three-pointers.

Buie hit a three ball to give the ‘Cats their first lead since 8:14 left in first half, but it was short lived, as a fast-break steal and a Kaleb Wesson barrage put the Buckeyes up by five. Ohio State continued to stretch their lead to nine with good three point shooting from Justin Ahrens, who finished an impressive four for five from deep.

The two teams traded buckets but the Buckeyes weren’t able to pull away, letting NU hang in the game. A Pat Spencer tip followed by a Ryan Young lay-in on consecutive possessions brought the ‘Cats within four forced Chris Holtmann to spend a timeout with 5:08 left. Coming out of the timeout, the Buckeyes scored four quick points to go up by eight, highlighted by an acrobatic alley-oop from Carton.

C.J. Walker followed that up by pouring in a deep ball that seemed like the dagger, giving the Buckeyes their first double digit lead since the first half. A follow up triple from Duane Washington ended any and all hope the ‘Cats had.

The Wildcats’ schedule does them no favors. Northwestern will travel to East Lansing on Wednesday to take on the Spartans.