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Rapid Reaction: No. 21 Ohio State holds off Northwestern 81-71

Four straight losses for the Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It was another difficult night for Chris Collins’ squad as Northwestern (6-4, 3-4 B1G) fell to No. 21 Ohio State (10-3, 4-3 B1G) 81-71 Wednesday night in Columbus, due in large part to NU’s struggles from behind the arc.

Despite a late push from the Wildcats to make it a one-point game, the Buckeyes answered the call in the final four minutes to avenge their December loss in Evanston. It’s NU’s fourth straight defeat after opening up Big Ten play with three victories.

Guard Chase Audige did everything in the first half for Northwestern, scoring 21 of his 25 points before the break, while forward Miller Kopp carried the Wildcats for most of the second. Center Ryan Young added nine points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting.

Sophomore point guard Boo Buie struggled for the fourth straight game, making one of nine attempts and scoring just five points.

It’s not that the Wildcats didn’t get good looks. They just couldn’t cash in from anywhere on the floor, shooting 40% from the field, 26% from three and 71% on free throws.

Four players scored in double figures for Chris Holtmann’s squad, which combined for 50% shooting and 40% from deep. Duane Washington Jr. led the way with 23 points and six assists, while Kyle Ahrens added 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from distance.

Both teams traded blows early with Audige leading the way for Northwestern. Audige found his shot from all three levels as he scored 15 of the team’s first 17 points by the under-12 media timeout. On the other side of the court, Washington did the same for Ohio State with 11 points in that timespan with the ‘Cats holding a one-point edge.

However, after the sophomore left the floor with 11:33 in the first, the ‘Cats struggled to find any offensive production while the Buckeyes went on a 7-0 run to go up 23-17.

From then on, Northwestern was unable to close the gap, as it continued to miss from three, shooting just 1-of-11 on triples in the first half. OSU made eight of its 18 first-half attempts from long range.

Boo Buie threw a beautiful half court alley oop to Audige with 6:44 left in the first, who then got a technical foul for slapping the backboard. Outside of him, NU couldn’t find an offensive rhythm as Audige and Young were the only Wildcats to score until 4:29 before the break.

Ohio State led 33-25 at the under-four media timeout and extended its lead to as many as 11 behind its lights-out three-point shooting and continued scoring woes for Northwestern, which made just four of its last 18 attempts of the half.

Kopp got on the board with two free throws in the final minute of the half, and an Audige tip-in right before the buzzer sent the teams into the break with the Buckeyes on top 42-33.

The ‘Cats held the Buckeyes to one field goal in the opening 3:40 of the second half, but kept on giving Ohio State second chances with fouls on the floor.

Kopp began to heat up in the second frame, hitting two straight triples in the midst of an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to five before Pete Nance picked up his fourth foul with 13:28 to go in the second half. The Buckeyes entered the bonus with 12:46 left, sending them to the charity stripe after every NU foul thereafter.

NU’s sharpest shooter almost singlehandedly kept his team within shouting distance, adding 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting (2-3 3PT) in the second.

However, NU just couldn’t string together stops, giving up free throws and easy looks inside to OSU, and the Buckeyes were able to extend their lead back to 12 with just under 10 minutes to play.

The Wildcats managed to go on another 8-0 run behind back-to-back threes from Nance and Buie, their first respective triples of the game, to make it a one-point game with 4:05 remaining.

But that was as close as it would get. The Buckeyes responded with a 12-0 run of their own as Northwestern was simply unable to buy a bucket down the stretch.

NU will return home for a rematch with No. 5 Iowa (11-2, 5-1 B1G) on Sunday at 8 p.m. CT.