Men’s Basketball: Northwestern falters again late in close contest with Ohio State


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Miller Kopp sets up for a shot. The junior finished with a team-high 20 points in NU’s loss to Ohio State.

Gabriela Carroll, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern’s second-half struggles continued as they failed to pull away in a competitive game for the third straight time.

The Wildcats (6-13, 1-8 Big Ten) fell Sunday against Ohio State despite coming within four points of the Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) with just over five minutes to play. The loss comes on the heels of the Maryland defeat that saw NU build a 14-point halftime lead, yet still lose by double-digits.

The Cats started off strong, with two early layups by graduate guard Pat Spencer, and led by as much as nine in the first half.

Fifteen first-half points from sophomore forward Miller Kopp helped NU fend off some of Ohio State’s big early runs. Kopp made a three-point play after the Buckeyes jumped out to a 10-point lead late in the first, and hit two crucial shots from behind the arc to go into the break only down three.

Kopp and the Cats’ offense stagnated in the second half. The Houston native only scored five points, and NU was scoreless in the last two minutes.

“In the second half, they did a good job keying on me,” Kopp said. “We got in half court cause in transition it’s a little harder to find guys, to lock in, and they were able to stop the ball and take our shot away.”

Spencer added seven in the second half, but even with Buckeyes star center Kaleb Wesson sidelined with foul trouble for much of the final period, the Cats could not stop the Ohio State offense, and had trouble adding shots of their own. Freshman guard Boo Buie, in his second game after returning from injury, managed to reach double-figures but went 3-for-12 from the floor.

In contrast, the Buckeyes shot 11-for-29 from behind the arc. Despite not playing in their previous game against Minnesota on Jan. 23, Ohio State forward Justin Ahrens went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line, with half of those makes coming in the second half. Guard D.J. Carton came off the bench in Wesson’s absence and scored a team-leading 17 points.

“He was the difference really, with his energy and the burst that he gave us with a couple of steals and his transition finishes,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “He certainly played as well as he played all year. I thought this was his best game.”

For the Cats, the loss is another in a series of winnable games. NU continues to keep games close late, but has been unable to get over the hill and finish them out strong.

Buie and senior forward A.J. Turner have recently returned from injury, and freshman forward Robbie Beran tweaked his knee in practice this week, giving the already young and undermanned Cats an even greater disadvantage, but NU does not want to use that as an excuse.

“We’re just going to keep fighting, coming every day,” Buie said. “We’re young, but we’re not using that as an excuse. We’re a good team, we know we can win these games, so right now, we’re just coming every day with the mindset that we have to break through, push through, and find a way to win.”

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