Ohio State (17-9, 7-8) was able to grind out a 63-49 win over lowly Northwestern (12-14, 3-12) on Wednesday night. The Buckeyes were fortunate to come away with a victory in what was a must-win matchup as the team continues to battle for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
After losing two in a row, the Bucks were finally able to put together a full team effort and get back in the win column. OSU was led by sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. No other Buckeye finished in double digits, with Duane Washington Jr. and Kyle Young adding eight apiece.
Northwestern was led by Vic Law, who scored 10 points to go along with seven boards and two assists. As a team the Wildcats shot just 31.6 percent from the field and 17.2 percent from three-point range.
Both teams left much to be desired through the first 20 minutes, but Ohio State was able to heat up as they did most of their damage in the second period, outscoring Northwestern 39-29 in the half. After turning it over seven times in the first period, the Buckeyes had just one turnover the remainder of the game.
The win was essential for OSU, who will now take on three straight ranked opponents in Maryland, Iowa and Purdue before a rematch with the Wildcats. The Buckeyes will next take the floor against the No. 24 Terrapins this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Both teams failed to score over the first few possessions, but Northwestern got on the board first with a free throw from Barret Benson. After an offensive rebound at the other end, Andre Wesson got the Buckeyes on the board with a dunk. The two squads continued their cold shooting to open up the game. It wasn’t until the 15-minute mark that Dererk Pardon hit a layup to put the Wildcats up 3-2 at the first media timeout.
With neither team able to get anything to go on the offensive end for several minutes, Duane Washington Jr. knocked down a three to give Ohio State its first lead of the game. After a Kyle Young layup off an offensive rebound, the Buckeyes took a 7-3 lead with 11:39 remaining.
Northwestern got two back with a layup at the other end by A.J. Turner. Heading into the second media timeout, the two teams were a combined 5-of-24 from the field, including 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Washington continued to be the only player on the floor with a pulse as he knocked down another three out of the short break. A few possessions later, the Wildcats were able to get it back on a deep-ball from Aaron Falzon. Kaleb Wesson got his first points of the night on a layup, and Ohio State held a 12-8 lead with 8:21 remaining in the period.
C.J. Jackson added to the lead with a wide open layup, but after a pair of free throws from Vic Law Northwestern got their first three to fall courtesy of Anthony Gaines. Ryan Taylor knocked down two shots at the line, and just like that it was all tied up at 14 apiece. With the Wildcats now on a 6-0 run, Kaleb Wesson put an end to the skid with an and-one layup as Ohio State regained a three-point lead. Wesson got the crowd going with a nice one-handed dunk on the next possession as his Buckeyes took a 19-14 lead with 3:36 to go until half.
Turner got a floater to go in the lane as turnovers began to pile up for OSU, now having seven as a team. Andre Wesson kept the Bucks in front, however, scoring three-straight points on a contested layup and a free throw. Following a jumper by Taylor, Kaleb Wesson hit a pair at the charity stripe as Ohio State held a 24-18 lead with 1:23 remaining in the period.
Law would get the only two points over the last minute and change as the Buckeyes went into half with a four point lead in an extremely low-scoring game. Neither team shot particularly well, as Northwestern went into the break at 29 percent and OSU at 38 percent. Kaleb Wesson led all scorers with nine points, most importantly recording no fouls over the game’s first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats got the first points of the second period with two points at the line by Gaines. Andre Wesson immediately answered with a layup at the other end, but Law drilled a three a few possessions later to cut Ohio State’s lead to one. Justin Ahrens got two back on his first bucket of the night, and after two free throws from Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes led 30-25 at the 17:34 mark.
Wesson continued to add to the lead with another layup as he began to utilize his size to physically dominate Northwestern underneath the rim. Falzon got the Wildcats back on the board with a layup, but Keyshawn Woods immediately answered with a jumper at the other end. After a dunk from Ahrens, Ohio State had their biggest lead of the night at 36-27 with 15:34 remaining.
Northwestern then started a little bit of a run, getting an and-one layup from Law followed by a three by Turner, but Kaleb Wesson scored inside to prevent momentum from swaying too far. Kyle Young added a layup, but it was Turner again at the other end getting a jumper to fall. After Young scored his second consecutive basket, OSU led 42-35.
Ohio State then began to heat up, as Jackson and Wesson nailed back-to-back threes to extend the Buckeyes lead. After Wesson scored again on a layup on the ensuing possession, OSU was in the midst of an 8-0 run, opening up their largest lead of the game, 50-38, with a little over eight minutes to go.
The two teams continued to trade baskets as the Buckeyes started to pull away. After a layup from Washington, OSU now led by 16, outscoring Northwestern 36-20 in the second period as the game clock showed less than four minutes remaining. Ohio State had hit eight of their last 10 shots from the field.
With the game firmly in hand, Chris Holtmann emptied his bench with 50 seconds remaining. The two teams played out the final minute, as Ohio State came away with a 63-49 victory.