Offense turns ugly in loss to Wildcats
EVANSTON, Ill. — Andre Wesson had just thrown up his second airball of the first half, and the few Northwestern fans in attendance were reminding him of that as he headed back up the court.
Walking back, he sent a glance to the Ohio State bench. Whether he was looking at Kaleb, his suspended brother, or just at the team in general was irrelevant. With the sophomore serving the second game of a suspension, the Buckeyes were in the midst of a shockingly inept offensive performance.
It was too much to overcome. After trailing by 11 points at halftime, Ohio State warmed up — relatively speaking — during the second half, but got no closer than five points as Northwestern snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 68-50 win at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
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The Buckeyes (18-12, 8-11 Big Ten) had won 31 of their last 33 games against the Wildcats (13-17, 4-15), including a dominating 63-49 performance at Value City Arena on Feb. 20. This time, without Kaleb Wesson to pull Northwestern’s defenders into the lane, they never found solid ground.
Northwestern’s offensive struggles kept Ohio State within shouting distance, and a crowd with a sizeable OSU contingent finally got a chance to express itself at the midpoint of the second half. Trailing 47-37, Keyshawn Woods hit a tough jumper from the left elbow and Duane Washington nailed a three-pointer to get the Buckeyes within five points.
From there, though, Northwestern answered with a 10-0 run to essentially push it out of reach as the Buckeyes missed four straight shots.
It wasn’t until C.J. Jackson scored on a layup with 11:09 left in the first half that the Buckeyes had their first field goal, breaking an 0-of-13 slump. They wouldn’t make another until Justin Ahrens made a three-pointer with 7:54 left, making them 2 of 16 from the field to that point.
At the break, they trailed 28-11 after shooting 14.8 percent (4 of 27) from the floor and 9.1 percent (1 of 11) from three-point range. That the Buckeyes were even that close was due to an 8-of-12 performance from the free-throw line, led by Woods’ 4-of-6 effort. As a team, Ohio State had as many made field goals as it did airballs.
After initially posting a starting lineup that included Jackson, the Buckeyes announced a correction moments before the opening tip and went with a never-before-used lineup of Woods, Luther Muhammad, Ahrens, Andre Wesson and Kyle Young.
Ohio State had won six straight road games against Northwestern. The Buckeyes have now lost two straight without Kaleb Wesson since a 20-point win against No. 22 Iowa on Feb. 26.
It’s not yet known when Wesson, suspended for an undisclosed violation of athletic department policy, will return, other than he will play again this season. Young, too, was limited after knocking knees with a Northwestern player late in the first half.
Woods led the Buckeyes with 15 points and Washington added 11. Cleveland native and Northwestern senior Dererk Pardon scored all but two of his 20 points after halftime.