Northwestern men’s basketball (6-5, 3-4 B1G) has been fun to watch this season. After starting Big Ten play 3-0 and placing 19th in the AP poll, everyone had high hopes for the program. But after a dream-like hot streak, Evanston was reminded of reality. After Northwestern’s 81-71 loss to Ohio State (10-3, 4-3 B1G) last night, the team has now lost four in a row and fallen to 3-4 in Big Ten play. All of these losses have come by at least 10 points. Needless to say, the ‘Cats have been streaky.
Last night’s game was still fun though. Although the Buckeyes led by as much as 12 in the second half, an 8-0 Wildcats run cut the Buckeyes lead to just one with four minutes to play in the game. After a timeout, the Buckeyes were able to close the game with a 10-0 run of their own. The game felt similar to the teams’ first meeting in Evanston earlier this season, but ultimately, the Buckeyes made more plays and resisted any comeback attempts as they led for most of the game.
“Ohio State just made more plays,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said after the game. “I thought we played well, and it’s an incredibly long season.”
But unfortunately, this has become the norm for the ’Cats on their losing streak. The Big Ten is better than ever this season, so despite being talented, the Northwestern's streaky stretches shouldn’t be super surprising. They have faced five ranked opponents in a row, the longest stretch in school history. And that stretch will be extended to seven once they face No. 5 Iowa in Evanston on Sunday and No. 9 Wisconsin in Madison on Wednesday, before playing unranked Penn State Jan. 23.
Speaking of streaks, sophomore guard Chase Audige led the way for Northwestern in the first half with a career high 21 points before cooling off after the break. Junior forward Miller Kopp led the way in the second half as he ended up totaling 16 points. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Boo Buie scored his first field goal in nearly four games (almost 145 straight minutes for the nerds at home) with about four minutes remaining in the game.
For the Buckeyes, junior guard Duane Washington Jr. led the way with 23 points and was able to match most of Audige’s magic on the other end. The team was without senior guard CJ Walker due to injury, but they were able to survive this one despite his absence. The Buckeyes were able to do this because of their balanced attack, with four players totaling greater than 12 points.
Ultimately, the ‘Cats’ cold stretch doomed them at the end. While they had hoped they had surpassed these growing pains from last season and earlier this season after their strong start to Big Ten play, this was not the case in their second meeting with the Buckeyes.
Up next they will try to carry the momentum that Buie and company generated down the stretch into their matchup with Luka Garza and Iowa. Let’s see which version of the ‘Cats comes to play.