No. 23 Ohio State braces for test from Northwestern

Northwestern Basketball

The No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes and Northwestern Wildcats look to ride the momentum of their big wins into Saturday’s contest in Evanston, Ill.

The Buckeyes (7-1, 1-1 Big Ten) faced No. 11 Rutgers at home Wednesday and fell behind by 16 points in the second half. But Ohio State scored 48 points over the final 15 minutes to post an 80-68 victory.

Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell led the way with 22 and 21 points, respectively. The Buckeyes dominated down low, outscoring Rutgers 38-20 in the paint and outrebounding the Scarlet Knights by a 45-25 margin.

“Obviously, there are a lot of good things to take from this game and a lot of things we’ve got to be doing better going into Northwestern,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.

The victory was the second straight for the Buckeyes, who defeated UCLA last Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio.

Like against Rutgers, Washington and Liddell have been the driving forces on offense for Ohio State the entire season. However, both are very different types of scorers.

Washington is a volume-shooting guard and prolific shooter from distance. He has 103 shots this season in eight games — 39 more than anybody else on the team — with 60 of those shots coming from beyond the arc.

Liddell is a more efficient forward who plays in the post. He is shooting 54.0 percent on the season — compared to Washington’s 36.9 percent — and has taken only nine 3-pointers.

“He’s a gifted offensive player,” Holtmann said of Liddell.

The Wildcats (5-1) are 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 2005-06 season. They upset Michigan State in the conference opener on Sunday and defeated Indiana on the road on Wednesday.

Northwestern started Wednesday’s game well, shooting 55.6 percent in the first half and holding a 15-point lead at one point. But after the break, the Wildcats struggled with turnovers, allowing the Hoosiers to come right back into the game.`

Chase Audige answered a scoreless first half by pumping in 17 points in the second, including the final 11 Northwestern points to put Indiana away.

“After the Michigan State game and all the talk about a huge upset, I think our guys were determined to not make that a one-time thing,” Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. “It was important for them to show that we can be competitive in this league this year.”

Northwestern lost starting forward Robbie Beran to an injury early in the first half against the Hoosiers and did not return. The extent of the injury was not revealed.

Audige is tied for second on the team in scoring this season with 13.8 points per game. Miller Kopp is also averaging 13.8 points a game while reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Boo Buie is leading the team with 14.5 points.

Collins believes being able to hold off Indiana’s run in the second half is a great sign for the team going forward.

“Whenever you can win games like this against terrific teams, especially on the road, you’re going to get confidence,” Collins said.

–Field Level Media

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