Buckeyes hang on to nip Northwestern
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Northwestern’s Tre Demps paid Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell the ultimate compliment on Thursday night.
After one of Russell’s 12 field goals, a key one in the second half, all Demps could do after failing to defend him was trot up the court and shake his head.
“He’s going to make a lot of money in the NBA,” Demps said of the freshman after Russell’s career-high 33 points led Ohio State to a 69-67 victory over Northwestern. “We tried to adjust, but he carried ‘em.”
Russell also pulled down seven rebounds and had six assists as the Buckeyes (15-5, 4-3) bounced back from Saturday’s loss at Iowa. They trailed by 11, led by 11, and finally had to fend off a final charge by the Wildcats. Russell was instrumental in that regard.
“Fortunately they gave me a lot of space and a lot of opportunities to take over, and that’s what I tried to do,” Russell said of his teammates. “I felt like I couldn’t miss. I was making them at great turning points of the game. During their runs, I was still making them to silence the crowd.”
Russell’s 12 of 17 showing from the floor included 6 of 11 shooting from 3-point range.
Even Ohio State coach Thad Matta was dazzled.
“Have you ever seen a performance like that from a freshman?” Matta said. “We told him at the end, just get open.”
Northwestern coach Chris Collins was mad about a pair of calls at the rim that went against the Wildcats, especially a block of Demps’ shot by Shannon Scott just after a Russell 3-pointer made it 63-60 with 3:34 left. He thought it was goaltending.
“I saw everything you guys saw,” Collins said. “Somebody’s got to be held accountable.”
Russell followed with another 3-pointer, and Ohio State never trailed again. A 3-pointer by Demps with 1.8 seconds left made the margin closer than it felt to the Buckeyes.
“No matter what happened, the adversity that hit, we still were up like three or four at the time,” Russell said. “We just had to finish the game no matter if it was ugly.”
The Wildcats jumped out 21-10 before Ohio State could get untracked. Four offensive rebounds in that stretch helped the Wildcats, with Alex Olah (16 points) scoring three of NU’s first five baskets.
A pair of 3-pointers by Russell kept Ohio State in contact. His 16-footer from the wing triggered a 10-point run for Ohio State, which outscored Northwestern 28-13 the rest of the half.
Russell, selected as the Big Ten’s freshman of the week three times this season, had 12 points in the first half.
Northwestern (10-9, 1-5) has dropped five in a row.
“You’ve got to build on this,” Demps said of the close call. “We’re playing better every time.”
Ohio State: Coach Thad Matta’s 125th victory in Big Ten conference play tied him with Tom Davis of Iowa for 15th in league history.
Northwestern: The 11-point lead the Wildcats built in the first nine minutes was their largest of the season in Big Ten play.
ON THE RISE
Anthony Lee of Ohio State was 4 of 4 from the floor and made a pair of key blocks, including one in the first half that NU coach Chris Collins disputed.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Thad Matta on his earlier statement that all five starting positions were open in Monday’s practice: “Well, c’mon. I knew one guy.”
Northwestern has lost its last four games by a total of 16 points, with the largest deficit — a 7-point loss at Michigan State — coming in overtime.
Ohio State hosts Indiana on Sunday.
Northwestern makes its first visit to Maryland for a conference game on Sunday.