By Kevin Sweeney
The Northwestern men’s basketball team had a chance for a season-changing win tonight at Allstate Arena.
But just as they have done many times before this season, the Wildcats came up just short.
A furious late push by the Wildcats came up just short, and Northwestern fell 71-65 to No. 22 Ohio State Wednesday night at Allstate Arena. C.J. Jackson led the way for the Buckeyes, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Coming off a lackluster performance offensively in Bloomington against Indiana on Sunday, the Wildcats struggled once again offensively in the opening period, as they were held to just 25 points on 37 percent shooting. Dererk Pardon and Bryant McIntosh were both held scoreless in the first half, but the defense kept the Wildcats in it. Chris Collins once again deployed several different defenses, including some 1-3-1 zones that had to remind ‘Cats fans of the Bill Carmody era in Evanston.
The offense seemed to wake up in the second half for the Wildcats, but despite getting better looks, they just couldn’t find a way to string together buckets and make a consistent push. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes heated up on offense, stretching their lead to as many as 15 in the second half. Micah Potter gave OSU a huge boost off the bench with 12 second half points on 4-4 shooting from the field.
Yet the ‘Cats wouldn’t go away, slowing chipping away at the deficit. Freshman guard Anthony Gaines brought energy off the bench, hitting a pair of threes and making some plays defensively to fire up the crowd. Forcing some turnovers down the stretch, Northwestern was able to get the deficit down to just 3 with just over 40 seconds to play on a 3 by Scottie Lindsey, but the Wildcats committed a foul on the ensuing possession to allow Ohio State to grab some breathing room.
One positive for the Wildcats was their ability to contain star forward Keita Bates-Diop. Bates-Diop, the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year was held to just 10 points on 4-12 shooting.
The Wildcats fall to 2-5 in Big Ten play and will host Penn State on Saturday.