Men’s Basketball: Northwestern loses control, falls apart at Ohio State

Referees separate senior forward Drew Crawford and Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross. Crawford led Northwestern with 22 points Thursday but battled foul trouble down the stretch as the Wildcats collapsed against the Buckeyes.

Shelby Lum/Republished with permission of The Lantern, thelantern.com, Ohio State University

Referees separate senior forward Drew Crawford and Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross. Crawford led Northwestern with 22 points Thursday but battled foul trouble down the stretch as the Wildcats collapsed against the Buckeyes.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

Northwestern got a nice comeback performance from senior forward Drew Crawford but not much else against Ohio State.

The No. 24 Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6 Big Ten) easily bested the visiting Wildcats (12-15, 5-9) 76-60 Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio. NU led for stretches of the first half but ultimately lost control of the pace of the game and couldn’t keep up with Ohio State.

It was no surprise to see the Cats’ offense as a whole struggle, but the defensive shortcomings were more concerning for a team that lives and dies by its ability to slow games down.

“I didn’t feel like we played great defensively,” coach Chris Collins said on WGN Radio after the game. “They had us on our heels. We didn’t do a good job of keeping them out of the paint.”

No one player starred for the Buckeyes, but four of their starters finished with double-digit point totals. Ohio State also shot 23-of-29 from the free throw line, compared to NU’s 9-of-14.

The only bright spot for the Cats was Crawford. Coming off a dismal outing against Minnesota in which he shot 1-for-15 from the floor with just 2 points, Crawford bounced back with a game-high 22.

The senior got off to a hot start, prompting Ohio State to switch guard Aaron Craft to cover him. Craft is listed three inches shorter than Crawford, but is widely recognized as one of the best defenders in college basketball and did a good job of slowing down Crawford’s pace.

It also didn’t help that Crawford got into foul trouble early in the second half and had to sit for an extended stretch with four personal fouls.

“We have to be a little smarter and not get ourselves in that big of foul trouble,” Collins said.

With Crawford sitting, the Cats fell further and further behind the Buckeyes.

“In the second half, they were able to take a comfortable lead,” Collins said, “and we were never able to make that run to put some pressure on them.”

Beyond their dynamic forward, NU couldn’t find any offensive spark. Sophomore guard Tre Demps had a solid 14 points off the bench, but no other NU player except Crawford finished with more than 8.

With the score out of hand and the game winding down in the second half, some drama sparked when Cats senior forward Nikola Cerina and Buckeyes center Amir Williams got tangled up under the basket.

While boxing out for a rebound, Cerina pushed Williams several feet out of bounds. Williams responded by shoving Cerina after the play had ended.

As officials separated the two, Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross shoved Cerina from behind, and Crawford gave Ross a small push before the two teams could be fully separated.

The referees deliberated at the scorer’s table for about 10 minutes before assessing disqualifying fouls against Cerina and Ross and a personal foul against Williams.

The bizarre sequence resulted in Cerina and Ross leaving the game, four free throws for Ohio State, six free throws and the ball for NU.

“I just saw guys get tangled up,” Collins said on WGN. “(The referees) took their time, and I trust they got everything right.”

As strange as it was, the incident was just a blip during an otherwise uneventful night for the Cats. The team, having now lost four straight, has just two days to prepare for its next contest Saturday against Indiana.

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Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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