Men’s Basketball: Wildcats take advantage of Wesson-less Ohio State in first half en route to win


Noah Fricks Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Vic Law drives the lane. The senior forward finished with ten points in Wednesday’s win.

Ella Brockway, Copy Chief

Men’s Basketball

There were only 35 seconds in Wednesday’s game between Northwestern and Ohio State when the Wildcats didn’t hold the lead — the first 35 seconds.

Senior forward Vic Law opened the matchup with a jumper from the top of the key as the shot clock hit zero to give NU an early 2-0 lead, and then its defense forced the Buckeyes to turn the ball over on their first possession on the other end. That was the story of Wednesday’s first half, and of much of the game itself: The Cats (13-17, 4-15 Big Ten) did just enough and Ohio State (18-12, 8-11) didn’t do much of anything at all.

NU found the holes in a depleted Buckeyes offense, one missing its leading scorer Kaleb Wesson — who was suspended last week for a violation of athletic department policy — en route to a 68-50 win on Wednesday. That performance was powered by a first half in which the Cats held the visitors to a season-low 17 points.

“We felt coming into the game obviously without Kaleb Wesson in there, he commands double teams, so with him not in there we could play more straight up and stay on their shooters a little bit better and their cutters,” coach Chris Collins said. “I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Without Wesson — who scored 22 points when the two teams last met on Feb. 20 — the Buckeyes missed their first 12 field goal attempts and committed four turnovers against the Cats’ defense in the opening minutes.

Wesson’s absence allowed NU to exploit a change in the Buckeyes’ offense, Law said, and that showed in the first half of action.

“A lot of their offensive play calls run through (Wesson) when he’s out there,” the senior said. “When he’s out there, their offense and their identity is much more throwing the ball and playing off his low post-ups, and I think he opens up a lot more for their other players … He’s such a big part of their team and for him to be just suddenly taken away, it’s hard.”

The Buckeyes shot a ghastly 4-for-28 from field goal range and an even worse 1-for-12 from deep before halftime, both dramatic decreases from the 44.5 percent and 34.5 percent they averaged in each category entering the game.

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said that his offense had no match for the Cats’ size inside and credited NU’s defensive showing in the first half.

“Our turnovers really hurt us and that fueled some of their offensive plays,” Holtmann said. “We took some bad shots, and at the same time, we missed some open ones.”

Collins emphasized that Wednesday’s defensive showing — specifically during the first half — wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for NU. The Cats have now held their opponents to 62 points or less in five of their last eight games, and have the conference’s third-best scoring defense, behind only No. 7 Michigan and No. 21 Wisconsin.

“We know we got a break tonight not having Kaleb Wesson in the game, there’s no question about that. Sometimes that happens,” Collins said. “They’re a different team without him there, but it’s still a very formidable opponent that’s well-coached that’s fighting for postseason aspirations … I just loved the way our guys competed tonight.”

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