In their first game of 2023, the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team (10-3, 2-0) and the Northwestern Wildcats (10-3, 1-1) met in Evanston, Ill. and the Buckeyes used an incredible first-half defensive effort to build an 18-point lead heading into halftime en route to a 73-57 win on New Year’s Day.
Northwestern entered this contest with a 10-2 record overall and 1-0 mark in the Big Ten after taking down Michigan State in East Lansing last month 70-63. The Wildcats' two losses came in back-to-back games against Auburn and Pittsburgh.
Ohio State came into this one on a two-game winning streak after falling to North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic on December 17. The Buckeyes also have lost to San Diego State in the Maui Invitational and Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Northwestern is led by senior guards Chase Audige and Boo Buie, who have proven to be tough opponents with their ability to score and play on both ends of the floor.
The game started off with a Justice Sueing offensive rebound and put back off a Brice Sensabaugh miss. Northwestern’s Chase Audige was 0-for-3 from the field in the first minute.
The Buckeyes got off to a 14-3 start with six points from Justice Sueing and five quick rebounds from Zed Key. Tanner Holden and Sean McNeil knocked down back-to-back three-pointers as well.
With Ohio State leading 18-6 after the second media timeout, both teams went on a bit of a cold streak offensively, trading missed baskets and blocked shots. Northwestern only scored six points in the first 10 minutes of the game, putting them on a pace to finish with 24 points in the contest.
Ohio State took a 22-6 lead after four straight points from Zed Key. The Buckeyes then rattled off a 12-0 run to take a 34-8 lead, including an emphatic dunk by Eugene Brown in his second game of the season after being in concussion protocol most of the season.
EUGENE BROWN IS BACKKKK pic.twitter.com/R1Q8PXZxTs— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) January 2, 2023
Northwestern cut the Buckeye lead to 21 after a Ty Berry three-pointer made the score 34-13, forcing a Buckeye timeout with two minutes left in the first half.
Sparked off the bench by Brooks Barnhizer, the Wildcats finished the first half on a small run, cutting the Ohio State lead to 35-17 at the half. This was the fewest points scored in the first half all season by the Wildcats.
The Buckeyes were led in the first half by Justice Sueing and Sean McNeil, who both had 11 points. Sueing also had four rebounds and Zed Key had six points and four rebounds. Roddy Gayle had four rebounds in six minutes.
To start the second half, Sean McNeil made a free throw off a flop warning from Ty Berry, and then Brice Sensabaugh knocked down a mid-range jumper to give the Buckeyes a 38-17 lead.
Sean McNeil knocked down another three-pointer to give him 15 points and up the Buckeye lead to 24 points.
A Zed Key dunk and a three from Brice Sensabaugh forced a Chris Collins timeout and the Buckeyes led the Wildcats 46-18 with 15 minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats struggled from the free throw line and three-point line, shooting just 10-for-17 on free throws and 9-for-31 on three-pointers.
After a Ty Berry three-point play, the Buckeyes lead 52-30 out of the under-12-minute media timeout.
The Buckeyes did a good job of answering every Wildcat run with a run of their own, pushing the lead to 26 and leading 56-30 with eight minutes left in the game.
Northwestern then went on a 10-2 run to force a Buckeye timeout with just under five minutes remaining in the game and the score 63-47 Ohio State.
After Northwestern made it 63-49 to give a little bit of hope, Brice Sensabaugh recorded five straight points to officially shut the door on the Wildcats.
Chase Audige had 16 points and Boo Buie had 10 points for the Wildcats.
For Ohio State, four Buckeyes finished in double digits. Brice Sensabaugh had 18 points, Sean McNeil had 15 points, Justice Sueing had 13 points and Zed Key had his fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh came into this one as a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Sensabaugh scored a team-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds and dished out a career-high seven assists.
Sensabaugh earned his first weekly honor after scoring a team-high 22 points – including the go-ahead jumper with three seconds remaining in the second half – in the Buckeyes’ 89-84 overtime loss to North Carolina at Madison Square Garden.
The best ability is availability
For the second straight game, the Buckeyes had their full roster available to use. According to the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy, the last time the Buckeyes had a full roster at their disposal was March 24, 2019 in the second round of the NCAA tournament in what was a 74-59 loss to the three-seeded Houston Cougars.
Battle of styles
Some of the best games are the ones with good on good. Coming into this contest, that is exactly what this was.
Ohio State came into the game second in the conference in points per game and second in the conference in field goal percentage. Northwestern came into this one second in the conference in points allowed and first in the conference in opponent field goal percentage.
The return of Ice
Right after the first media timeout, senior transfer guard Isaac “Ice” Likekele entered the game for the first time. Likekele started alongside freshman Bruce Thornton in the Buckeyes' first eight games, but missed three games with a personal matter and only played in nine minutes against Alabama A&M in his return to the team.
In this one, he came off the bench but seemed to have no real minutes restriction to start the new year.
All Boo Buie to start
The Wildcats struggled immensely in the first 15 minutes of the game, with Ohio State leading 31-8. Northwestern senior guard Boo Buie had the first six points of the game, knocking down two three-pointers as the first field goals. Buie came into the contest averaging 14.2 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, and 4.3 assists per game.
All the freshman
With 11:13 left in the first quarter, the Buckeyes had four freshmen on the floor at the same time. Bruce Thornton, Brice Sensabaugh, Roddy Gayle, and Felix Okpara were all in the game with Isaac Likekele which marked the first time that all four freshmen shared the floor in the 2023 calendar year.
The Buckeyes have a tough test coming up next as the No. 1 team in the country, the Purdue Boilermakers are 13-0 overall and 2-0 in conference. The Buckeyes take on Purdue on Thursday, January 5th at 7:00 p.m. on FS1.