Once star freshman guard D’Angelo Russell found his shot, Ohio State found its footing.
Tied at 60 with less than four minutes to play, Russell, who scored a career-high 33 points, dished out six assists, and claimed seven rebounds, buried a critical 3-pointer to ensure his team scraped by Northwestern for what it called a "must-need" win earlier in the week.
It would seem as Russell (who scored the team's final 13 points) goes, so go the Buckeyes, which escaped Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 69-67 win Thursday night in Evanston.
To try and spark some life into a team that’s struggled in its last five games, Matta inserted freshman Jae’Sean Tate and senior Anthony Lee into the starting lineup after hinting at possible changes earlier in the week.
But the Buckeyes, like they have before for much of this season, fell into an early hole anyway as Northwestern raced out to 21-10 lead.
|28-53 (52.8)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||24-44 (44.4)|
|9-19 (47.4)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||7-21 (33.3)|
|4-9 (44.4)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||12-14 (85.7)|
But Ohio State, with its superior length, size and overall athleticism, took back control of the game with a 28-13 run to close out the first half. The comeback was kindled by Russell, who scored 12 of his points in the first half, and sophomore forward Marc Loving, who buried two critical three-pointers along the way.
With a 38-34 lead at the break, Ohio State carried such momentum into the second half. The Buckeyes buried their first four shots and worked quickly to build an 11-point lead cushion that it clung to for much of the period.
Northwestern, which used the long ball and free throws to buoy itself, tied the game at 60 with under four minutes to play and drew within one point with less than a second to play.
Ohio State plays Indiana Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.