The day after Christmas, Ohio State was leading for most of the second half until Northwestern came roaring back, hit an eventual game-winner and sent the Buckeyes back to Columbus with their first Big Ten loss.
They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, holding off the Wildcats’ attempt at a second-half comeback for an 81-71 victory.
Duane Washington Jr. and Ohio State’s 3-point shooting were the story of the first half. Washington Jr. scored 17 points in the period on 5-of-10 shooting yet he wasn’t even the game’s leading scorer at that point, trailing behind Chase Audige’s 21 points. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot at a 44.4 percent clip (8-of-18) from beyond the arc as they appear to finally have found their stroke from deep in recent games.
Foul trouble became the early news of the second half for both teams. Justin Ahrens, Zed Key, Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell each picked up their third fouls in the period while both Northwestern and Ohio State spent significant time in the bonus. Thankfully, all of the Buckeyes in foul trouble were able to stay on the floor and finish out the game.
The Wildcats finally found a little rhythm from the 3-point arc, got a couple separate runs going and started making things uncomfortable for the Buckeyes. A double-digit advantage turned into a 1-point game with just over four minutes remaining. Ohio State would not go down quietly, though, erupting for a 10-0 run and cruising to the win.
What Liddell lacked on the offensive end, he more than made up for on the glass as he collected a game- and team-high 10 rebounds.
Washington Jr. was more involved in facilitating the offense in the second half, dishing out a career-high six assists while only adding six more points to his career-high total of 23. What stood out even more was his 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as he took over a majority of the ball-handling duties for the injured C.J. Walker and Jimmy Sotos.
More to come after Chris Holtmann's postgame press conference.
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