It was a battle between Big Ten bottom feeders Sunday, but the Buckeyes got back in the win column for just the second time this month.
Ohio State (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) had to play without junior forward Kaleb Wesson down the stretch due to foul trouble, but key plays from Buckeye guards led to a 71-59 win against Northwestern (6-13, 1-8) in Evanston, Illinois.
Back-to-back 3s from Ohio State redshirt junior guard CJ Walker and sophomore guard Duane Washington gave the Buckeyes a 13-point lead — their biggest of the game — with just three minutes to go.
Two minutes earlier, though, it was a four-point game.
A pair of free throws from freshman guard D.J. Carton extended the lead to six, and an acrobatic tip-in from Carton on a steep lob pass from Washington 20 seconds later began to blow it open.
Carton finished with 17 points on the night, and the Ohio State bench scored 39 in total.
Each time the Buckeyes appeared to be pulling away in the second half, Northwestern answered to remain within striking distance.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the half after a charge from Ohio State senior forward Andre Wesson set up a 3 from freshman guard Boo Buie on the other end, but Carton put the Buckeyes back on top with two transition layups thereafter.
Ohio State sophomore forward Justin Ahrens found a rhythm, knocking down two 3s in 20 seconds to put the Buckeyes up by nine midway through the second half, but less than three minutes later, the Wildcats were back down four following a layup from redshirt freshman center Ryan Young.
Ohio State carried its recent offensive woes into the early going Sunday, shooting just 1-for-10 to start the game down 13-4 to the Wildcats.
Lethargic play and multiple turnovers from both Kaleb Wesson and freshman forward E.J. Liddell appeared an indication that the Buckeyes may be doomed to yet another loss, but they managed to head into the locker room with a 38-33 lead.
Their three-point halftime lead was in double digits just a few minutes earlier, as junior forward Kyle Young caught a pass out of a pick-and-roll and turned to find a wide Carton for a 3 from the wing.
Up 33-23, Carton’s make gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of the game with less than four minutes to play in the half.
But Northwestern sophomore forward Miller Kopp scored eight of the Wildcats’ next 10 points to close out the half with just a one-possession deficit.
Kopp led all scorers with 15 points — including two 3s — in the first half, and his seven points in the opening eight minutes of the game helped give Northwestern an early edge. Kopp scored just two more baskets in the rest of the game.
The Buckeyes came back with five straight 3-point makes after starting the game 1-for-8 from deep. Two of which came from Ahrens, who finished with a season-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
A technical foul on Northwestern head coach Chris Collins was part of a sequence that allowed Andre Wesson to hit four straight free throws and give the Buckeyes some separation in a previously tied game.
Andre Wesson led the Buckeyes with 11 points in the first half, while Kaleb Wesson scored just four. The 6-foot-9 big man had his lowest scoring output of the season in Ohio State’s previous loss to Minnesota, but he’d finish with 11 points and nine boards Sunday.
The Buckeyes return to Columbus to face Indiana at noon Saturday.