Men’s Basketball: D’Angelo Russell and Ohio State outlast Northwestern rally


Ebony Calloway/The Daily Northwestern

Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell leads the team’s half-court offense. The freshman guard torched Northwestern on Thursday night, dropping 33 points and six dimes in securing the Buckeyes a narrow victory.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Men’s basketball

A dominant performance by freshman guard D’Angelo Russell allowed Ohio State (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) to escape with  a 69-67 win at Northwestern (10-9, 1-5) on Thursday.

The defeat continues the Wildcats’ string of close losses. In the last four legs of its five-game losing streak, NU’s average margin of defeat is a measly 4 points.

“It’s just so tough that they’re not getting the results they deserve,” coach Chris Collins said. “It’s tough going into that locker room knowing you fought so hard and just came up a little short.”

The Cats cut an 11-point second-half deficit down to 1. However, several botched opportunities in the final minute, including two missed layups and a turnover, allowed the Buckeyes to survive.

“I love my group,” Collins said. “We’re getting better every game. There’s no quit. We had every reason in this game when we got down 11 and they were hitting everything to throw in the towel and say, ‘It’s not our night.’ But we didn’t do that.”

At the start of the game, NU appeared on track to end its slide. The Cats jumped out to a 21-10 lead nine minutes into the game as the Buckeyes sleepwalked.

Junior center Alex Olah played an inspired first half, continuing his recent resurgence in the post. The 7-footer had 10 points, two blocks and two steals in the opening period and finished with a team-high 16 points.

Russell was the only Ohio State player who came ready to compete from the opening tip. His 12 points and 3 assists in the first half not only brought the Buckeyes back into the game but also helped them gain a 38-34 lead at the break.

Russell did not let up in the second half. After three free throws by sophomore forward Sanjay Lumpkin cut Ohio State’s lead to 54-46, Russell delivered a perfect bounce pass from 25 feet out for an easy Sam Thompson dunk to push the Buckeyes’ lead back to double figures.

The Cats managed a late rally down the stretch though.

Trailing 63-60 with 2:44 to go, junior guard Tre Demps had a transition layup blocked by forward Anthony Lee. Collins said he disagreed with the non-goaltending call.

“It should have been 63-62,” Collins said. “Somebody’s got to be held accountable for (the missed call).”

Collins was livid on the sideline, hopping up and down while flailing his arms and yelling at the referees.

“I’m just a fighter, man,” Collins said. “I just try to give my team what my team needs. They needed my fight, they needed my energy. …  I felt like tonight my team needed my fight.”

The Buckeyes capitalized on the missed call with Russell draining a contested 3-pointer on the other end.

“Some of the shots he was hitting were the shots you want somebody to take,” said Demps, who finished with 14 points and 4 assists. “He had it going. We tried to make some adjustments, but he carried them.”

Although the Buckeyes missed the front ends of three one-and-ones and turned the ball over once in the final minute, NU failed to take advantage.

A layup by freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh with 7.9 seconds left cut Ohio State’s lead to 66-64, but Russell calmly sank two free throws to ice the game.

Russell finished with 33 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists without turning the ball over once.

“He’s a special talent, no question about that,” Collins said. “Early he got some good looks. When you give a great player clean looks early, then he makes tough ones.”

With several chances for wins turning into close losses, the Cats now sit at 12th place in the Big Ten. Collins and Demps were dispirited after Thursday’s game, but both coach and player said there is reason to be confident after sticking close once again.

“You have to build on it,” Demps said. “As much as you want to forget about it, we’re playing better basketball every time we play. It’s a play here and there. That’s the way it is. We’re playing really good basketball. Spirited basketball. It will pay off at some point.”

This post was updated Jan. 23 at 12:57 a.m.

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