Ohio State came into its matchup against Northwestern looking for a rebound.
After dropping its past two games, the most recent one in blowout fashion, the Buckeyes had an opportunity to right the ship with a home matchup against a team that was winless in its past six and had the second worst record in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes capitalized on the opportunity, defeating the Wildcats 63-49 in a low-scoring battle.
Ohio State outscored Northwestern 39-29 in the second half, and shot 53.3 percent from the field.
“I think we just knew that we really needed this game, so we all bought into a good day of prep,” freshman guard Duane Washington said. “We can be really good when we lock in and do what we’re supposed to do, so we all bought into it, played hard, and we came out with the victory.”
Freshman forward Justin Ahrens gave Ohio State some life coming out of halftime with a four-point lead.
Prior to not seeing the floor for the first half, Ahrens tallied four points, two rebounds and an assist in the opening six minutes of the half in place of sophomore guard Musa Jallow, who started the game.
From there, sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson began to take over.
“I thought Kaleb was really good the whole night on both ends, I really did, I thought Kaleb was assertive,” head coach Chris Holtmann said.
Wesson led the Buckeyes in scoring in both halves, tallying 13 in the second half on 5-of-6 shooting to allow Ohio State to take over down the stretch.
The sophomore forward had been shut down in the past four games, failing to score more than 12 points since finishing with 27 against Rutgers on Feb. 2.
Against Northwestern, Wesson finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists and did not record a personal foul until 5:19 to go in the second half.
Nobody else on Ohio State finished in double figures in scoring.
“It’s always good to have a big performance, but the best thing was that we got the win today,” Wesson said. “My teammates found me when I was open, I got a lot of open looks just because they were hitting shots today.”
Senior guard C.J. Jackson showed pain in his left arm throughout the game, getting up slow grimacing after suffering an injury in his past game against Michigan State, and struggled to get much going on offense because of it.
Jackson went to the locker room with 15:38 to play, but returned before the timeout was over.
The senior guard finished with five points, making 2-of-8 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3, with two rebounds and two assists.
The first half was an ugly display of offense from both teams.
Ohio State took a 24-20 lead into the break after holding Northwestern to 29.2 percent shooting, making 2-of-11 from 3. The Buckeyes shot 37.5 percent in the opening half, connecting on 2-of-12 from deep.
The two teams combined to score five points on 2-of-19 shooting in the first 7:21 of the game.
Wesson led Ohio State with a game-high nine points in the first half, while nobody on the Wildcats had more than four points.
Holtmann said he was looking at the positives from the first half rather than the negatives.
“We’re by no means an offensive juggernaut, but I think give their defense some credit. I liked the quality of our shot,” Holtmann said. “We’re probably where we are right now because of our team defense, honestly, that has kept us in games and given us a chance this season.”
Both teams committed seven turnovers, with redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods leading either team with three in the first half.
Woods ended the game with three turnovers to go with seven points in 30 minutes. The Buckeyes only committed one turnover overall in the second half.
Washington was a spark off the bench, connecting on back-to-back 3-point attempts to give the Buckeyes the early 10-5 lead.
Ohio State moves on to face Maryland on the road at 2 p.m. on Saturday.