The Buckeyes poked their heads back above the .500 mark, holding off a late Northwestern three-point barrage to take a 72-64 win before 13,460 Wednesday night at Value City Arena. OSU, which upset No. 21 Purdue 65-59 Saturday, won back to back games for the first time since late December.
OSU also claimed its 25th straight win in Columbus over NU, a string dating to 1977.
It seemed as if the Buckeyes (11-10, 3-5) would cruise to the lead after building a 15-point lead early in the second half. But Northwestern (8-11, 3-5) got hot behind the line, hitting six straight three-pointers -- including treys on four straight trips -- to cut the OSU lead to 61-58 with 2:52 left. But OSU outscored NU 11-4 to close out the win.
"I said yesterday I thought this was a very critical game for us," OSU coach Jim O'Brien said. "It was a chance for us to maybe move up two spots in the standings (from 10th to eighth). We're still in the race. We don't want everybody to run away from us.
"If we're lucky enough to play well and get that game Saturday (against Michigan State), we would be in the middle of it. We're making progress and we're getting better. We'll see what happens. But obviously, we needed to win this game."
Tony Stockman led OSU with 22 points, six steals and five assists in 38 minutes of work. He hit on 6 of 10 three-pointers.
"I felt like I got a nice little rhythm going," Stockman said. "I was very comfortable with my shot."
O'Brien benched Stockman four games ago for a poor attitude in practice. But the junior has responded in a big way ever since. He had 17 points in Saturday‘s win over Purdue.
"That is two games in a row where Tony has been magnificent," O'Brien said. "He made big shots and clearly controlled the game for us. He is playing a lot more under control and taking good shots."
Terence Dials and Velimir Radinovic each had 14 points and eight rebounds for OSU, which shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the floor (27 of 47). Brandon Fuss-Cheatham added 11 points and four assists.
"It helps immensely when you make some shots," O'Brien said. "Once again, we stepped up and made some threes. That helps the big guys get some room. I also thought Terence and Velimir played a lot more confidently around the basket."
Vedran Vukusic led Northwestern with 24 points, hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers. Jitim Young chipped in 13 points and Mohamed Hachad added 11.
"We didn't shoot the ball until the last 10 minutes of the game and they did," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "They had one very good shooter, Stockman, and we let him beat us."
OSU led by five points on four different occasions in the first half, including the 31-26 margin at the intermission. Fuss-Cheatham had nine of his points in the first 20 minutes.
Stockman led a 17-7 OSU run to start the second half, scoring the first eight points of the half as the Buckeyes went up 48-33 with 12:10 remaining in the game.
OSU still led 56-44 after Stockman made back-to-back three-pointers with 5:54 left.
But this is when the Wildcats and Vukusic got hot. Vukusic swished treys on three straight possessions before teammate Vince Scott made one on the fourth straight trip, allowing NU to trim the margin all the way down to 61-58 with 2:52 left.
"We understood the match-up problems we had all game long," O'Brien said. "You have to give credit to their guys. Both of their big guys made threes."
Meanwhile, Ohio State could not help itself at the foul line. OSU made just 4 of its first 15 free throws in the game, opening the door for the Wildcats. But the late run allowed the Buckeyes to put it away.
J.J. Sullinger scored on a drive -- his only basket of the game before fouling out -- to put OSU up 63-58 with 2:25 left. Vukusic answered with two free throws to cut it to 63-60.
Stockman then landed the biggest dagger of the night, taking a crosscourt pass from Fuss-Cheatham and nailing a three-pointer to beat NU's 1-3-1 zone and put OSU up 66-60 witrh 1:54 left.
Young made two free throws before Fuss-Cheatham made two of his own to leave OSU on top 68-62 with one minute left. Young then drove and scored, cutting it to 68-64 with 41.8 seconds left.
But Radinovic made a pair of free throws with 39 seconds left and Dials swished two more with 9.3 seconds left to seal the win.
In the second half, OSU shot 56 percent from the floor (14 of 25) -- including 5 of 8 on three-pointers (62.5 percent) -- and committed just two turnovers.
* The Buckeyes own more victories over Northwestern (104) than against any other opponent in school history. The Wildcats have 44 wins in the series but have now not won in the last 10 games. Ohio State faces Northwestern just once this season.
This game in Columbus was the 76th meeting on the OSU campus between the two teams. Ohio State is 62-14 all-time in the series when the teams square off in Columbus. Northwestern has not won in Columbus since the 1977 season, a string of 24-consecutive defeats at Ohio State.
* OSU's home record improved to 8-4 this season, including 7-4 in Value City Arena. OSU is now 76-17 all-time at Value City Arena.
* The Buckeyes are now 7-0 this season and 37-1 all-time in VCA when they shoot 50 percent from the floor. The lone loss was a 2001 game against Penn State, where both teams shot 50 percent.
* The Buckeyes host Michigan State at noon Saturday on ESPN. The Spartans defeated Iowa 89-72 Wednesday to improve to 11-8 overall and 6-2 in Big Ten play.