The wait is over. After a losing streak spanning nearly six weeks that included a 15-point blown lead at Iowa and losses to Penn State and Rutgers at home, Northwestern (13-17, 4-15 B1G) has finally ended a basketball game with more points than their opponent. Behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from Dererk Pardon, Northwestern took down Ohio State, 68-50, for their first win over the Buckeyes at Welsh-Ryan Arena since 2009. As a (potential) added bonus, the Ohio State (18-12, 8-11 B1G) loss crippled their NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Wildcats still sit in the cellar of the Big Ten, and this season is far from being redeemed. But this win is a sign that Chris Collins’ squad has not completely given in, making them a potential dark horse in the Big Ten Tournament.
“You want the guys to be able to taste winning, so they keep going,” said Collins. “I’m really proud of the guys.”
While the Wildcats deserve some credit for building their first half lead, the story of half was Ohio State’s utter failure to buy a basket. Missing top scorer Kaleb Wesson due to a suspension (undisclosed reason), the Buckeyes shot under 15% in the half and scored 17 points. Northwestern has not even had a half that bad this season. The Northwestern defense forced 7 turnovers and blocked four shots.
The Northwestern offense enjoyed a balanced attack for most of the game. Perhaps the most surprising first-half contributor was Barret Benson, who in 9 minutes secured 3 rebounds and put down this monster dunk:
Northwestern outscored Ohio State 16-6 in the paint in the first half and only made one three-pointer, apparently learning from their past mistake of relying on the three without a consistent shooter. No one player reached double-digit scoring, and the Wildcats were out-rebounded by the Buckeyes, but Northwestern led by 11 at the break.
After a deep Ryan Taylor trey to open the second half, Ohio State went on a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to seven. However, every time Ohio State tried to claw back, Northwestern responded, this time with a jumper from A.J. Turner (10 pts).
Pardon, as usual, was a huge asset for the ‘Cats in the second half. He made an uncharacteristic three-pointer to keep the Buckeyes at bay during a tough offensive stretch for Northwestern, and scored 11 points in the game’s final 10 minutes.
A Duane Washington (11 pts, 6 reb) three-pointer cut the Wildcat lead to just 5 with under 9 minutes left, but Northwestern refused to back down, something they haven’t been able to do for well over a month. A Pardon layup followed by a Turner three extended the lead back to 10, and Ohio State never again had a realistic chance at a comeback.
Northwestern will look to eliminate No. 11 Purdue (22-8, 15-4 B1G) from Big Ten regular season title contention on Saturday afternoon in Evanston.