The Wildcats may be better on the road than at home.
After getting blown out by the Buckeyes in Evanston a month ago, Northwestern (17-7, 8-5 B1G) defeated the Buckeyes (11-13, 3-10) 69-63. The alliterative duo of Boo Buie and Brooks Barnhizer led the way for the ‘Cats in the scoring department, both having 19 points — establishing a career high for the sophomore. Additionally, Audige filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, two steals and four assists. For Ohio State, Justice Sueing had 19 points and eight rebounds of his own, and Bruce Thornton added in 12 more for the Buckeyes.
The ‘Cats controlled the opening tip and capitalized right away, as Matthew Nicholson converted a layup, before Isaac Likekele answered with two of his own. On the following sequence, Ty Berry committed a foul after a missed three, as the Buckeyes’ Zed Key converted an and-one layup, giving Ohio State its first lead of the day.
The Buckeyes continued to dominate in the paint, as Key and Felix Oxpara added two layups for Ohio State. For the ‘Cats, Barnhizer hit the first jump shot of the day, with a post fadeaway from the free throw line, making it 9-6 in favor of OSU five minutes into the opening half.
Out of the media timeout, Audige and Buie sank back-to-back threes to give the ‘Cats a brief lead before Thornton nailed the Buckeyes’ first jumper of the day with a step-back midrange over Robbie Beran. However, Beran answered right back with a jumper of his own, as Audige found the forward in the corner for the ‘Cats’ third consecutive three. The Wildcats defensive continued to struggle down low, though, as Key converted another layup to even the game at 15-15 with just over 11 minutes left in the half.
After the break, both teams struggled offensively before Barnhizer converted a reverse layup after a baseline cut. Following the early defensive issues for the ‘Cats, Northwestern’s starters were dialed in, forcing three turnovers on the Buckeyes’ next four possessions. Ohio State was held scoreless for the entire four-minute stretch between media timeouts, giving the ‘Cats a 17-15 lead with eight to go.
Subsequent to an offensive foul call Berry, his second foul of the game, the Buckeyes got it going again offensively. Roddy Gayle Jr. hit a floater, and Sueing knocked down back-to-back jumpers as the ‘Cats continued to struggle offensively after their hot start from behind the arc. Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann called his first timeout of the game as Ohio State led 21-17.
OSU executed its play out of the timeout flawlessly, as Sean McNeil came off a screen and knocked down a midrange jumper, making it an 8-0 OSU run. First-year Nick Martinelli finally ended the ‘Cats’ near-six-minute scoring drought, utilizing his size with a layup. However, before the under-four timeout, the eighth different Buckeye to convert a field goal was Tanner Holden, who hit a midrange jumper to make Ohio State’s lead 25-19.
In the final minutes of the half, the Wildcats made their first three in nearly 10 minutes, as Barnhizer knocked down a wing trey to cut the Buckeye lead in half. After a lengthy OSU possession that ended scoreless, Buie hit his second three-pointer to even the game at 25-25. In the last minute, Sueing drilled another contested midrange jumper, and Buie split a pair of free throws. However, the ‘Cats were able to take the lead at the half, as Martinelli nailed a spinning floater off the glass to beat the buzzer, making it 28-27 with 20 minutes to go.
At the break, Buie led all scorers with nine points, with underclassmen Barnhizer and Martinelli combing having seven and four points, respectively. For Ohio State, Key and Sueing led the way in the scoring department and rebounding department, with the two combining for 13 points and ten rebounds for the Buckeyes.
Out of the half, Key split a pair of free throws after Nicholson had to foul the junior to prevent a dunk. After struggling for the majority of the half, the ‘Cats’ senior duo of Buie and Audige scored on consecutive possessions, with Audige hitting a three and Buie converting a layup.
Northwestern’s brief five-point lead was quickly erased, however, with Ohio State scoring off offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions and Likekele hitting a free throw on the ensuing possession to grant Ohio State its first lead of the second half. Sueing extended this advantage off a Martinelli missed three, grabbing a rebound and taking it coast-to-coast for his signature midrange fadeaway. Chaos ensued, with Buie nearly turning it over but diving on the floor for the ball in the backcourt to keep the possession alive, before Barnhizer converted a layup before the shot clock expired. After that near disaster-turned-basket for the ‘Cats, the first media timeout of the second half occurred with Ohio State leading 37-35.
After the timeout, Buie used his speed to get to the basket, but the Buckeyes responded, hitting two shots from the painted area. Barnhizer rallied with his second three of the game and Buie hit another layup but appeared to twist his ankle as he got back on defense. Brice Sensabaugh took advantage of the injured guard, as he went right at Buie for a step-back jumper. This gave Ohio State a 43-42 edge at the under-12 media timeout.
In Ohio State’s out-of-break set, Sueing was fouled on a floater and knocked down both free throws. Once again, though, Northwestern responded, with Beran hitting a top-of-the-key three-pointer. Bruce Thornton used his frame for seemingly the Buckeyes’ hundredth midrange jump shot, which forced Collins to call his second timeout midway through the half.
Out of the Collins timeout, Northwestern’s big men connected as Beran found Nicholson for a layup. Similar to its scoreless stretch in the first half, Ohio State’s offense seemed stagnant following Collins timeout, but this time the ‘Cats took advantage. Audige split a pair of free throws after being fouled on a dunk attempt and Berry hit a deep three, giving Northwestern a 51-47 lead.
With under eight to play, Ohio State got within one by attacking the paint on consecutive possessions, but Barnhizer brought the lead back to four with his third three-pointer of the game. After a Thornton basket, the game was swung at the charity stripe, with Buie hitting four from the line and Likekele missing a pair. Barnhizer followed this up with a deep three, a bit of a heat check, to give the ‘Cats their largest lead of the game, 61-52.
With less than five remaining, Sueing provided an answer for the reeling Buckeyes, scoring five straight to bring the lead to four. The ‘Cats had two unforced travels offensively but responded with an Audige corner three to bring the lead to seven with two minutes to go. After his huge shot, Audige bailed the Buckeyes out with a perimeter foul, as Thornton hit both free throws. Misses by both sides on their ensuing possessions gave the ‘Cats the ball still up five, as Buie found Nicholson for a dunk that proved to be the dagger in Columbus, as the ‘Cats were victorious 69-63.
Northwestern returns to Evanston this Sunday to take on the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers at 1 p.m. CT. Catch the game at Welsh-Ryan Arena or on Big Ten Network.