Men’s Basketball: Northwestern can’t complete rally in loss to No. 21 Ohio State


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Boo Buie takes a three. The sophomore guard has struggled recently after strong performances early in the season.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Down eight points with 5:32 in regulation against No. 21 Ohio State, the Wildcats found themselves in a familiar position. A couple weeks earlier, Northwestern rallied from seven points down with five minutes left to eke out a 71-70 home win against the Buckeyes.

This time, the Cats couldn’t finish.

NU (6-5, 3-4 in Big Ten) pulled within a point, but Ohio State (10-3, 4-3) exploded for a 12-0 run in the final minutes of regulation to blow open the contest and exact revenge for their earlier loss to the Cats. Despite a career-high 25 points from sophomore guard Chase Audige and a couple second-half scoring runs, NU suffered its fourth straight loss, falling 81-71.

“When you get down to the last four minutes and you’re on the road, you want a chance,” coach Chris Collins said. “There’s a lot of positives to put ourselves in that position. We just didn’t have the execution and the poise and Ohio State did.”

Audige comprised the entirety of NU’s offense in the early going. He accounted for 19 of the Cats’ first 23 points, along with an assist on a basket by sophomore center Ryan Young.

The Buckeyes kept pace with Audige’s scoring blitz with a prolific performer of their own, guard Duane Washington Jr. Washington hit three three-pointers over a four-minute stretch and tallied 17 first half points to help Ohio State take control.

The Buckeyes also succeeded in stopping the other Wildcats in the first half. NU shot an abysmal 3-16 from the field and missed all seven attempts from three. Ohio State entered the halftime break with momentum and up 42-33.

“We withstood an early barrage of threes,” Collins said. “We were doing a pretty good job on Liddell and Young, but those eight threes gave them separation.”

Foul trouble and a lack of defensive stops plagued the Cats in their comeback attempt. Junior forward Pete Nance was called for his fourth foul early in the second half and Ohio State made eight of 11 field goal attempts to open the frame. Junior guard Miller Kopp took over the offensive load with 14 points in the frame after an 0-4 first half, but aside from an 8-0 NU run, the Cats’ offense struggled to find anything resembling rhythm.

NU did not allow the Buckeyes to escalate their lead into a rout, and with six minutes to go, the Cats channeled their December selves. NU made another 8-0 rally to close the lead to just a point, 67-66.

The catalyst — sophomore guard Boo Buie, who had made just one shot from the field over his previous three games. Buie broke out of his slump by hitting a pair of free throws and a three-pointer.

“I just want him to stay confident and keep playing his game,” Collins said. “If he sees the ball goes in, it can turn quickly for him.”

Ohio State answered the call. The Buckeyes scored 12 straight points to put the game out of reach while NU struggled to find open looks on the other end of the floor. A contest that appeared headed for a last-second finish ended in a double-digit Ohio State victory.

The loss marks the fifth consecutive game in which the Cats played an opponent in the AP Top 25. No. 5 Iowa is next up as NU looks to end its skid.

“We’ve all said you’re gonna be judged by what you do over the full 20 (games),” Collins said. “You might win four in a row, you might lose three or four in a row. You have to hang in there.”

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