The freshman went to the line for a pair of free throws, but his first did not go down. At that point, a largely hostile crowd pulling for the upset escalated its cheering, hoping to see the Wildcats' lead remain intact.
Instead, Sullinger calmly knocked down the second one and knotting the score at 52. After the game, the freshman said he has been shooting an extra 25 free throws every day for the past two weeks and said his approach did not change on his second free throw with the game on the line.
"You miss is, next shot," he said. "That's how we play around here. If we made a mistake on defense, next possession and learn from your mistakes. I let it go short and the second one, I put more oomph into it. It was a big-time free throw. I wasn't thinking if I was going to miss it or make it."
The score would remain there into overtime, but Sullinger had the last chance to earn the victory. Following an airball from Northwestern's Drew Crawford, the Buckeyes gained possession with 22 seconds left.
The ball found its way to Sullinger with less than five seconds remaining near the right block. Spinning to his left, he hoisted a fadeaway jumper along the baseline that found only air.
"It slipped out of my hands as I was trying to make the move," he said. "I realized how much time was left and I didn't want to just give us one shot: I wanted to give us multiple shots like we had (at the end of) the first half."
Said OSU head coach Thad Matta: "I thought he was, you know, a mismatch. At that point with the score tied, I was fine with (the shot)."
Buford's Struggles: After having scored in double figures in 13 of his last 15 Big Ten games, junior guard William Buford never got untracked against the Wildcats. Buford went 3 for 14 from the field for seven points.
According to him, things got progressively worse as shots continued not to fall but it should have little effect on his next performance.
"I'm fine," he said after the game. "I just couldn't knock down any shots. I'm mad at myself."
Asked what he has to do to not carry that over into OSU's Saturday contest with Michigan, he said, "Rebound, play D, don't worry about it. Go onto the next shot. It was messing with me a little bit today because I couldn't knock down a shot but I had to get onto the next play and not worry about it."
Diebler, Too: Likewise, senior Jon Diebler found the rims in Conseco Fieldhouse not to his liking. One game removed from the first Big Ten player of the week honor in his career, the Big Ten's all-time leader in three-pointers missed his first four from deep and did not hit one until overtime.
After having gone 17 for 20 in his previous two games, Diebler said he was not worried by his performance against the Wildcats.
"Coach always tells me to shoot if I'm open," he said. "I think we all had some really good looks. In past games we had been making them. You're not going to make then all every game and tonight was one of those games where we didn't. When you're still open you've got to shoot it and they'll start falling for us."
When he connected on a trey with 2:21 left in the extra stanza, it gave his team a two-possession lead that held true until the end. It also kept alive his streak of games with at least one three-pointer, which now stands at 48.
Freshman Aaron Craft, whose father coached Diebler in middle school, said he had not realized that it took the senior until overtime to notch a three-pointer.
"I might (mention it to him) now that you bring it up," he said with a laugh. "He doesn't care about records like that. He's just happy and we're all happy that he was able to make one down the stretch when we needed it most. If he doesn't make one but we come out with the win, he doesn't mind at all."
Diebler was sporting a layer of black tape on his right, shooting wrist, but said it had no bearing on his performance.
"I just tweaked (the wrist) a little bit," he said. "I'm fine. It's really not a big deal at all. I probably won't even wear the tape (Saturday). I'll be fine."