It just keeps getting worse for Northwestern men’s basketball (6-13, 1-8 B1G), who lost to Ohio State (13-7, 3-6 B1G) 71-59 Sunday night in a game that saw thrills, spills and blown leads aplenty.
The game was a back-and-forth battle all night. The ’Cats rocketed out of the gate with a 13-4 first half lead, but Ohio State quickly responded, going up 36-26. The ’Cats would catch up and even gain a 44-41 lead early in the second half, but quickly lost it and never recovered, following a stretch of stingy defense played by Ohio State in the second half.
“One thing about playing [Northwestern] is they’re so efficient in what they do, they really take advantage of any type of weakness on your part or lack of effort,” said Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann.
The ’Cats were led by sophomore Miller Kopp in the defeat, who had 20 points and went 3-for-9 from 3-point range. Graduate student Pat Spencer and first-year Boo Buie also contributed with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
On the other side, the Buckeyes were led by freshman D.J. Carton and sophomore Justin Ahrens, who both came off the bench. Carton scored 17 on 6-8 shooting, while Ahrens was the team’s deep-threat down the stretch, going 4-for-5 from behind the arc.
"We really shared the ball as well in this game as we have all year. Opening the floor a little bit helped us do that,” Holtmann said. “I thought our ball movement was tremendous."
This is the second time the ’Cats lost by double digits at home this week, including the 77-66 loss to Maryland on Tuesday night, in which the team held a 40-26 lead going into halftime. The team, however, said they aren’t discouraged by any excuses, and believe they can find a way to push through in these close games.
“We’re just gonna keep fighting,” said Buie. “We’re young, but we’re not using that as an excuse. We’re in these games, we know we can win these games."
Like the rest of the basketball world, the game was marred with tragedy as players, coaches and fans responded to retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s death earlier in the day. Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on Sunday morning, was a close friend of Northwestern coach Chris Collins, who had coached Bryant when he was on Team USA’s coaching staff in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“Our dads were teammates in Philadelphia, so I’ve known him since he was born. My sister and Kobe are about a month apart,” Collins said, wiping away tears. “I coached him with the [USA Men's] National Team … when you travel overseas, and a lot of times we would go on those exhibition tours leading up to those games, ... basically that becomes your family for six weeks."
Bryant’s contributions to the game will not be looked over, especially not by Northwestern. After one student missed the ceremonial half-court shot during a television timeout, he removed his t-shirt to reveal a Kobe jersey, which Welsh-Ryan Arena responded to with thunderous applause.