The only uninjured point guard on Ohio State's roster – Meechie Johnson – enrolled in college a month ago and started practicing last week.
Yet the absences of CJ Walker (torn ligaments in right hand) and Jimmy Sotos (shoulder) were not too much to overcome.
Justice Sueing started the game out at point forward to get things rolling in effectively his first game playing the position in college, and combo guard Duane Washington Jr. dropped a career-high 23 points to power Ohio State to an 81-71 victory at the Schottenstein Center on Wednesday. The Buckeyes split the regular season series with the Wildcats after losing, 71-70, on Dec. 26.
Ohio State, having won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time this season, improves to 10-3 overall and 4-3 within the conference. In its fourth straight loss, Northwestern falls to 6-5.
Despite controlling the lead for the vast majority of the Big Ten showdown, Ohio State began faltering late as Northwestern heated up for an 8-0 run to close the home team's lead to 67-66. During a six-and-a-half-minute stretch late in the second half, the Buckeyes only one field goal – on a Kyle Young bucket – to allow the Wildcats an opportunity to close the gap.
A much-needed 11-point run followed, though, which began with a Justin Ahrens 3-pointer and continued with Justice Sueing finishing through contact in transition, Young completing an and-one and Washington scoring four points on a layup and a pair of free throws.
Washington, leading the way for the Buckeyes with his 23 points, was 7-for-16 from the floor, knocked down a trio of 3s and made six foul shots. E.J. Liddell brought down 10 rebounds to go along with his six points. Young added 12 points with nine boards. Sueing had 13 points with seven rebounds. Justin Ahrens, making four 3-pointers, scored 12.
Early on Wednesday night, it was a Washington-Audige showdown.
Incredibly, before he got cold in the second half, Audige made seven of Northwestern's first eight shots, giving the Wildcats a 15-13 lead on his seventh make of the half. Yet his evening – 25 points – was not enough to pull off the victory. Miller Kopp dropped 16 points in the loss, too, powering the Wildcats in their late charge with 14 second-half points.
Next up: Ohio State hits the road to take on No. 14 Illinois (9-4, 5-2) on Jan. 16. The game in Champaign, Illinois, is set to tip off at noon on FOX.
- Without Walker or Sotos available, head coach Chris Holtmann turned to Justin Ahrens to join Duane Washington Jr., Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young in the starting five.
- Northwestern, which won 71-70 against Ohio State on Dec. 26, entered the day having not pulled off a regular-season sweep of the Buckeyes in 54 years.
- In the Holtmann era, the Buckeyes are 6-2 against the Wildcats – with one of the losses coming in December. They're 13-1 all-time against Northwestern at the Schottenstein Center with a 120-48 record overall.
- Ibrahima Diallo joined Walker and Sotos on the inactive list. He's recovering from a sprained MCL, and a timeline for his recovery has not yet been made public.