A career-best night for E.J. Liddell lifted the Buckeyes to a bounceback win in Columbus on Sunday.
Three days after being blown out by Indiana on the road, No. 13 Ohio State returned to form on its home floor Sunday, topping Northwestern, 95-87, and improving to 7-0 at the Schottenstein Center this season.
Ohio State had its most prolific half of the season offensively in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 51 points on 66.7 percent shooting, and a 21-point first-half explosion from Liddell was the primary factor in the hot start. Liddell finished with 34 points for the game, besting his previous career-high of 29.
|#13 OHIO STATE||51||44||95|
Northwestern did not go away easy, cutting the Buckeye lead down to six points in the final minute while Ty Berry, Chase Audige and Pete Nance powered a fervent comeback effort. Each of those three Wildcats finished with at least 20 points. But it would not be enough in the end, as the Buckeyes never quite cooled off enough to allow Northwestern to take a lead at any point in the second half.
Ohio State simply could not miss early. The Buckeyes started 10-for-12 from the floor and 7-for-9 from 3-point range, taking a 29-14 lead eight minutes into play, and Liddell led the way for Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ star forward scored 17 of the first 19 points for Ohio State and took seven shots before missing one. Liddell knocked down five 3-pointers in the half and finished the period with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
Malaki Branham was crucial to the Buckeyes’ hot half as well, scoring 13 points on 4-for-5 from the floor as Ohio State’s second-leading scorer in the period and aiding the Buckeyes in a 51-39 lead at intermission. That point total was as many as Ohio State scored all game against Indiana on Thursday.
|29-51 (56.9%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||32-68 (47.1%)|
|11-25 (44.0%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||10-24 (41.7%)|
|26-27 (96.3%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||13-17 (76.5%)|
Northwestern managed to stay within relative striking distance, though, scoring 10 of the next 12 points after Ohio State took the aforementioned 15-point lead to cut the Buckeyes advantage down to seven by the 9:50 mark. The Wildcats turned eight Ohio State turnovers into 11 points, which helped their cause amid the Buckeyes’ offensive onslaught.
But Ohio State’s scorching start was too much for the Wildcats to keep pace with throughout the half, and the Buckeyes took a double-digit edge into the locker room.
An early explosion in the second half from Berry helped the Wildcats get right back into things at the start of the final period, as the second-year player scored 10 points in the first six minutes alone on 4-for-4 shooting. Berry’s barrage was part of a 12-2 run that cut the Buckeye lead to 55-51 at the 15:45 mark.
A couple of timely 3-pointers from Meechie Johnson and Cedric Russell helped the Buckeyes get back up by double digits in the middle of the half, and Ohio State was back up by 13 after an and-one from Liddell gave the Buckeyes a 78-65 lead at the 6:59 mark.
A quick 6-0 Wildcat run late allowed Northwestern to get back down only six points with three minutes to play, but Ohio State closed it out with some clutch free-throw shooting to seal the deal.
What’s next: Ohio State heads back on the road on Thursday for its second meeting with Wisconsin this season.
- Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler served as acting head coach for the Buckeyes Sunday, as both Chris Holtmann and Ryan Pedon were unavailable due to health and safety protocols.
- Buckeye forwards Justice Sueing (abdomen) and Seth Towns (back) were unavailable for Ohio State due to injury.
- Ohio State forward Kyle Young made his first start of the season in place of Zed Key.
- Northwestern forward Pete Nance, the son of former Cleveland Cavalier Larry Nance and the brother of NBA forward Larry Nance Jr., hails from Akron, Ohio.
- Ohio State is 4-2 against Northwestern since Holtmann took over the Buckeye program in 2017-18, and the Buckeyes are 98-24 all-time against the Wildcats.