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Northwestern loses third straight conference matchup to No. 13 Ohio State 95-87

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I think I’ve seen this film before.

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio. — Northwestern (8-5, 1-3 B1G) was simply no match for the No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-3, 4-1 B1G), as the Wildcats dropped their 18th straight ranked matchup on the road 95-87.

Chase Audige and Ty Berry led the way offensively with 20 and 23 points, respectively. Ohio native Pete Nance added 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting along with six rebounds, while Boo Buie contributed eight assists. For the Buckeyes, it was the E.J. Liddell show, as the junior forward set a new career-high with 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He also had five blocks.

Both teams began the first half trading a bucket each, that is, until Ohio State’s Liddell went off. The junior spent the first five minutes of the contest shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, with five of those makes coming from beyond the arc. Audige and Nance attempted to keep the Wildcats close — scoring four and five points, respectively — before the first media timeout, but no one was able to stop Liddell from extending OSU’s lead. Buie also happened to pick up two fouls before the 15-minute mark.

Northwestern’s offensive play through the next stretch was disappointing. A missed jumper by Audige followed by a failed, forced layup by Elyjah Williams put the ‘Cats in a scoring rut while the Buckeyes embarked on a six point run. A Chris Collins’ timeout at the 12-minute mark saw Northwestern down 29-14 in an early hole.

Buie broke the ‘Cats’ scoring drought after the break only to be negated immediately by a Buckeye field goal. However, Northwestern managed to hold OSU at 31 points while it slowly creeped back into the contest, scoring eight points uncontested thanks to efforts by Buie and Berry. Liddell finally returned fire from downtown in his near perfect half and re-extended the Buckeyes’ lead to 10 with just over seven minutes to go.

The rest of the half saw more back-and-forth between both sides with the margin remaining consistent throughout. Northwestern’s defense struggled to contain Liddell and freshman Maliki Branham, but solid rebounding, patient layups and six points from Berry kept the ‘Cats from falling much further behind. NU entered the locker room down 51-39, shooting 43% from the field compared to OSU’s 67%. Liddell led all scorers with 21 points along with four blocks, and Berry led the ‘Cats with nine points.

The second frame began relatively slow compared to the high-scoring first half, but the ‘Cats finally managed cut the deficit to single digits, once again thanks to Berry. The sophomore came out of the locker room red hot, hitting a crucial three to jumpstart Northwestern’s offense. Both Nance and Audige contributed to the scoreline as well as the ‘Cats crept within seven at the first media timeout.

Berry added five more after the break, including another three, but OSU ramped up its scoring, once again maintaining a steady lead behind strong efforts from Branham. Another three from Audige did little to slow the Buckeyes, who swiftly answered with two field goals to extend the margin back to nine. Northwestern entered the final 11 minutes of play down 65-56 with momentum in the balance.

The next five minutes of play were slow with few points traded between each side heading into the final stretch. Liddell, who had been relatively quiet throughout the second half, was fouled by Robbie Beran on his way to the basket for a three point play which put the Buckeyes back up 13. Despite the deficit, the ‘Cats did not give up. Aggressive offense by Audige earned him two free throws and a layup, and Nance added five of his own shortly after to keep NU within 10.

Nonetheless, the veterans’ efforts were no match for Liddell and the Buckeyes, who were still shooting close to 60%. Northwestern continued to fight, cutting the deficit to six at one point within the final few minutes of the game. However, fouls by Berry and Beran gave the Buckeyes an avoidable four free points from the stripe. A late three by Nance gave the ‘Cats a glimmer of hope only to be countered by a set of free throws by OSU and an unfortunate travel called on Buie. Despite each member of Collins’ squad fighting hard until the final whistle, Northwestern was unable to collect its second Big Ten win.

The ‘Cats, now in desperate need of a conference victory, return to Evanston for their next matchup against the Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CST.