Forced into overtime thanks to sluggish shooting and some of the most curious officiating I’ve ever seen, Ohio State rode Jared Sullinger’s clutch 10/10 free throw effort and five points from Jon Diebler to win the extra frame 15-9 on the way to a 67-61 victory over Northwestern this afternoon in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Sullinger struggled from the floor hitting just 2/12 shots but he was a money 16/18 from the stripe totaling 20 points to go along with 18 rips, eight on the offensive glass.
While Sullinger took over the extra session, Aaron Craft got OSU that far with a masterful 17 point, seven rebound effort featuring several key plays. Jon Diebler was the only other Buckeye to reach double figures with 13, including five in OT.
The lack of a shoot around might have hurt the Buckeyes, who shot a dismal 32% on the day including 3/15 from distance. Besides Sullinger’s woeful shooting, William Buford shot a horrific 3/14.
After a Luka Mirkovic trey followed up four straight free throws from Sullinger to cut OSU’s lead to 56-55 with 3:40 left in OT, things got interesting as Sullinger rebounded a Craft miss as Mirkovic applied a Himalayan arm hold. In one of the rare good calls on the day, Mirkovic was called for the foul and reacted by launching his mouth guard onto the floor, earning a technical foul. Buford clanked both free throws but Sullinger drained both of his giving OSU a 58-55 lead with 3:05 to go.
Michael Thompson missed a jumper and Diebler answered with a dagger deep in the left corner putting the Buckeyes in front 61-55 at the 2:22 mark. Northwestern could only draw as close as four points the rest of the way as Sullinger and Diebler combined to shoot 6/6 from the line to close it out.
Ohio State had a chance to win in regulation but Sullinger rimmed out one of two free throws at the 1:00 mark tying the game at 52 after Alex Marcotullio hit a clutch triple with 2:09 giving Northwestern a 52-51 lead. Following Sullinger’s free throw, the Buckeye defense forced an airball from Drew Crawford giving OSU possession with :26 left but a lack of a plan led to Buford running the clock down to seven seconds before feeding Sully who barely drew iron on a 16 foot baseline fade away jumper.
Northwestern was their usual pain in the ass self right from the start and built 23-19 lead with 3:09 left in the first half before Craft keyed a 9-0 run giving the Buckeyes a 28-23 lead at intermission. Deshaun Thomas started the run with a layup in traffic before Craft scored seven straight on a triple from the top of the key, a slashing drive through the lane and a tip in of his own miss just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
To even lead at the half was an accomplishment as the Buckeyes shot just 34% and assisted on just one of 13 field goals. The stagnant offense was aided by 10 offensive rebounds and zero turnovers. Sullinger had 11 boards in the first half alone.
Credit the Buckeyes for playing through the dismal offensive showing (3 assists, just 19 FG) by getting after it defensively holding the Wildcats to 37% from the floor and owning the glass 41-24 including a 17-5 advantage on the offensive window. The work on the offensive backboard created a 18-6 edge in 2nd chance points. As is typical of OSU vs. Northwestern, the game featured just 11 turnovers, six by the Buckeyes.
John Shurna led Northwestern with 23 points, wearing out Buford in the process, and Michael Thompson chipped in 15.
In a tight game that featured 10 ties and 17 lead changes, neither team led by more than six points.
The Buckeyes get the winner of Illinois vs. Michigan that is taking place in the background here at Conseco.