"We just decided we were going to control the game with our offense," said NU head coach Bill Carmody. "We thought we would have to limit our possessions, because they average 80 points per game."
The Wildcats held Ohio State to 58 points, which ties a season-low for the Buckeyes.
Buckeye freshman phenom Jared Sullinger led all scorers with 21 points, including the go-ahead free throw to win the game.
The Wildcats were led by Juice Thompson's 16 points, and Mike Capocci filled in with 11 points in place of the injured John Shurna.
Both teams battled back-and-forth in the first half, ending the half with a 27-25 Buckeye lead.
In the early portion of the second half, Ohio State opened up a 14-4 run giving them a 12-point lead. Hopes looked bleak for Northwestern midway through the second half. With 8:08 left in the game, the Wildcats trailed by 12 points, when suddenly, a spark went off.
Northwestern got a three-pointer from Juice Thompson, which set up the comeback. After a Buckeye turnover, Davide Curletti hit the first free throw, but missed the second. The Wildcats' got the rebound, and three-pointer from JerShon Cobb, which gave cut the deficit to five points.
With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Juice Thompson hit a three-pointer, giving Northwestern a one-point lead. Ohio State quickly responded with a Jon Diebler three, which gave the Buckeyes a two-point lead, but Juice Thompson responded on the other end with a two, which tied the score at 57.
The Wildcats had a chance to shoot for the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining, but Alex Marcotullio threw an errant pass, which was stolen by the Buckeyes. On the other end, freshman forward Jared Sullinger was fouled by Marcotullio, and hit one of two free throws, giving the Buckeyes a one-point lead.
With 3.5 seconds on the clock, Northwestern had one last prayer, but Drew Crawford's half-court heave missed by a few feet.
A last-second heave would've been tough to make, but the Wildcats had a chance to win the game before then. But Alex Marcotullio's turnover proved to be costly for the ‘Cats.
"That last play, we wanted to get a shot, we didn't get a shot, and it's disappointing as hell," said Bill Carmody.
The Buckeyes now improve to 22-0 on the season, and are the only remaining unbeaten team in the country. Ohio State has seen a few close games during their impressive run, but nothing like what the Wildcats gave them on Saturday. One shot could have won the game.
"They find a way to win," Carmody said of Ohio State. "We had the ball and the opportunity. We tried to use the clock and get a good shot off."
Northwestern now faces a week of rest, before facing rival Illinois. That game is set for 12:00 CT and can be seen nationally on CBS.
Looking ahead after the loss, Juice Thompson said he's not a fan of ‘moral victories', but that the Wildcats will use this game for the remainder of the season.
"We'll walk away with what we can, and we'll come ready to play next week."