It has been quite a rollercoaster for the Ohio State Buckeyes on the hardwood. That trend continued this past week. After beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers on a last-second layup off an inbounds play, the Bucks dropped a close one to the Northwestern Wildcats in a game Ohio State desperately needed.
Their first game back on the court after beating Michigan State for a much-needed first conference win, the Buckeyes could have easily went into Lincoln and spit the bit against the Cornhuskers. But, they didn’t. For the first time this season, the scarlet and gray (finally) won on the road, coming away with a last-second victory in Nebraska.
Trailing 66-65 with 1.9 seconds remaining, C.J. Jackson found a wide-open Marc Loving under the basket on the out of bounds play. Loving made the layup as time expired sending Ohio State’s bench into a frenzy. He was wide open because the man guarding him switched off with his teammate to take sharpshooter Kam Williams out of the play, but that move proved costly.
While the last two seconds were all that determined the game, there was plenty of action in the first 39 minutes and 58 seconds. After digging themselves in a 12-point hole in the first half, something that seems to happen a lot this season, the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game when Trevor Thompson had a dunk with just under nine minutes remaining to give the scarlet and gray a 53-52 lead. The game went back-and-forth from there, but the Bucks were able to have the last laugh.
Loving led the way, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. JaQuan Lyle (13 points, four rebounds, three assists), Jae’Sean Tate (13 points, five rebounds, one block), and Trevor Thompson (10 points, nine rebounds) also scored in double figures.
Along with digging themselves in an early hole, the Buckeyes’ struggles from the free-throw line also seem to be something that they have fought with all season. Against the Cornhuskers, they made just 7-of-16 attempts from the free-throw line. Horrible would probably be an understatement. Their struggles from there will most likely cost them in a game or two down the road.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, Nebraska struggled as well from the stripe, along with their inability to shoot from long distance as well. They shot just 11-of-20 from the free-throw line and 5-of-21 from beyond the arc.
The most impressive stat of the game: Ohio State had an inexcusable 11 turnovers in the first half. In the second half? Zero. That was one of the main reasons why they were able to dig themselves out of early hole and get back into the game.
In case you missed the game-winning basket, here it is:
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) January 19, 2017
After losing their first four B1G games, Ohio State was rolling. They were on a two-game winning streak and were set to host the Wildcats Sunday afternoon. All of those high hopes and feelings quickly turned sad and angry (again). The Buckeyes suffered a two-point loss to the Wildcats. The win gave Northwestern their first win in Columbus since 1977. Yes, you read that right: they hadn’t beat the Buckeyes in Columbus in 40 years.
Ohio State held a lead for much of the first half and led by as many as six, but they struggled to keep the lead late in the first half and allowed Northwestern to take 36-31 lead into the locker room. In the second half, the Buckeyes took the lead back at 55-52 after a Jackson three with just under nine minutes remaining, but Northwestern took the lead for good after Scottie Lindsey made a three to give the Wildcats a 59-56 lead with 4:32 left and never looked back. Unlike the Buckeyes, Northwestern hit six straight free throws to put things away.
On the stat sheet, many would have believed that Ohio State won the game. Quick reminder: the final score is all that matters. Head coach Thad Matta was kind enough to point it out after the game.
“If you look at the stat sheet and not the final score, you would say Ohio State won today. We weren’t as sharp as we needed. The turnovers led to baskets for them. I thought our half-court defense was pretty decent in terms of what were trying to and take away. Northwestern is too good to give them three points that’s for sure.”
Four Buckeyes reached double-digits: Tate (14 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals), Lyle (13 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal), Thompson (11 points, 15 rebounds), and Williams (10 points, one rebound, two assists) led the way for Ohio State.
Northwestern struggled horrendously from the field, making just 24-of-64 shot attempts. What helped them was the fact that they made 19-of-24 from the free-throw line.
For what seems like a common theme for the basketball Buckeyes, they struggled, once again, from the stripe, making just 12-of-23 attempts.
Wednesday vs. Minnesota (15-5, 3-4), 7 p.m. ET
Saturday at Iowa (11-9, 3-4), 8 p.m. ET