2011 Ohio State Basketball
OSU Survives Scare to Remain Unbeaten
Conference road wins aren't easy to come by.
The No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes needed a clutch free-throw by stud freshman Jared Sullinger with 3.5 seconds left to eke out a 58-57 road victory over the Northwestern Wildcats, preserving their unbeaten record.
Sullinger led the Buckeyes with 21 points to go along with eight rebounds while fellow freshman Aaron Craft added 13 points.
Ohio State improved to 22-0 this season, tying its second best start in school history while remaining the only unbeaten team in Division I Men’s College Basketball.
A determined Northwestern squad was led by Michael Thompson’s 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half. The Wildcats (13-8, 3-7) are now 0-15 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 and 0-7 against ranked teams this season.
Four days following their most impressive and convincing win of the season against the ranked Purdue Boilermakers, the Bucks strolled into Northwestern and right away were in for a dog fight.
The Wildcats game plan was evident from the opening possession. Slow the game down.
On offense, Northwestern ran a three-man weave on the perimeter until the shot clock got within 10-15 seconds before starting their play.
The plan was working as the Wildcats controlled the tempo of the game despite the Buckeyes taking a 27-25 lead into the half.
Defensively, Northwestern's game plan was to switch on ball screens, and OSU head coach Thad Matta made an adjustment coming out of halftime to exploit matchup problems brought on by the Wildcats switching.
By pounding the ball inside to Sullinger and William Buford, who were being guarded by smaller defenders, the Bucks stormed out to a 12-2 run, pushing their lead to double-digits within the first five minutes of the second half.
It looked as though the Buckeyes were well on their way to another easy victory but with one possession the entire complex of the game changed.
Thompson's 3-pointer with 7:53 left cut the lead to nine, and Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale was called for an intentional foul on the play near the basket. Davide Curletti made 1 of 2 free throws and the Wildcats retained possession with JerShon Cobb hitting a 3-pointer. The seven-point possession made it 51-46 with just a little more than seven minutes remaining and got Northwestern back in the game.
Another Thompson triple with 3:51 left capped a 21-7 run as the Wildcats took a 55-54 lead as the home crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena went crazy.
Moments later, Ohio State's three-point marksmen Jon Diebler, answered with a trey of his own for his first basket of the game to put the Buckeyes right back in front 57-55.
Not to be outdone, Thompson then sailed through the lane and the 5-foot-10 guard floated the ball into the basket knotting the game with 1:31 remaining.
After an Ohio State turnover and then a foul, Northwestern retained possession and tried to set up a go ahead shot. Ohio State's fifth-year senior and defensive leader, David Lighty, stole a pass with 17 seconds to go setting the stage for Sullinger’s heroics from the charity stripe.
The Buckeyes aim to remain unbeaten this coming Thursday as they return to Columbus to host rival Michigan.
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