The Buckeyes outscored Northwestern 22-1 over the final 7:15 and rolled to a 65-52 win over the Wildcats at Evanston, Ill. It was OSU's first win in six road games this season.
"I told the team afterwards this is one of the best team wins I have ever been a part of," said OSU coach Thad Matta. "Even with the substitutions at the end, everybody was doing their job."
The Buckeyes (14-7, 3-4) overcame deep foul trouble for center Terence Dials, who only played 20 minutes and finished with eight points. Dials picked up his fourth foul trying to gain offensive position with 7:39 left. OSU trailed 48-43 at that point.
Things would go from bad to worse as Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic completed a three-point play to put NU up 51-43 with 7:15 left.
"I made a challenge for them to respond to what had happened," Matta said. "We could either fight on or let things happen. We had to physically and mentally get ourselves tougher.
"We had to get back to picking up the defensive pressure and intensity and become more disruptive."
OSU buckled down on both ends of the floor and dominated the Wildcats (9-10, 2-5) down the stretch. The Buckeyes were especially proficient at the foul line, making their last 12 free throw attempts to finish the game 19 of 22 (86.4 percent) at the line.
"I am very pleased that we finished this game off," Matta said. "We showed something we haven't seen."
Matta jumbled the lineup and had Butler and Je'Kel Foster start in place of Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham. The move paid off as Butler hit an early three-pointer to help stake the Buckeyes to a quick 7-0 lead. Butler scored his seven other points during OSU's game closing run.
"Our defensive pressure was good out of the gate and we started out 7-0," Matta said. "Jamar and Je'Kel have done a tremendous job for us. Really, we starting is not as important as who finishes the game and makes plays for us down the stretch."
Sylvester continued his string of fine play off the bench.
"Matt has been a great spark for us all year long," Matta said. "He has a great feel for the game and he sees the floor well."
Butler canned a three on OSU's first possession. Dials then scored twice off feeds from Foster as OSU led 7-0 just 1:38 into the game. But Dials picked up his second foul at the 16:19 left on a dubious call as he was simply battling for offensive position. He would not return for the rest of the half.
"Terence did not get many minutes," Matta said. "My hat's off to Matt Marinchick. He came in and did a good job for us."
Northwestern rallied and tied the game at 7-7 on a Vukusic jam in transition with 14:21 left in the half. With Dials on the bench, the teams almost seemed to exchange identities. OSU did the best it could to slow down the tempo and take time off the clock, while NU repeatedly pressed the issue and attacked the basket – even after OSU made baskets – with Dials absent from the paint.
OSU scored six straight – on a Fuss-Cheatham layup, a Stockman layup and two free throws from Sylvester – to go up 18-12 with 8:01 left in the half. The lead went to 20-13 after Sullinger made a pair of free throws with 7:07 left. OSU still led 22-16 after Sullinger scored on a layup off an offensive rebound with 4:56 left.
But Northwestern outscored OSU 11-7 to close the half. Parker's driving layup with 41 seconds left cut the OSU lead to 29-27 at the half.
NU tied the game at 39-39 on a Vukusic three-pointer with 13:03 left. That was the start of a 15-4 NU run. That run also included a three-pointer from Mike Jenkins and was capped by Vukusic's three-point play to give the Wildcats their biggest lead at 51-43 with 7:15 left.
This is when the Buckeyes went to work.
Butler scored, followed by a three-point play by Foster and a driving layup by Sullinger. Sullinger again drove to the hole for a layup and the lead, putting the Buckeyes up 52-51 with 4:28 left.
NU then turned it over, but Sylvester missed a three-pointer. When NU's Tim Doyle missed a three, the Buckeyes had a chance to pad their lead. Butler knifed down the right side of the lane, banked in an 8-footer and was fouled. His free throw put OSU up 55-51 with 3:06 left.
Parker was then fouled, but he made just 1 of 2 free throws – NU's only point in the final 7:15.
The rest was all Ohio State. Dials, finally back in the game, fielded a lob pass and laid it in for a 57-52 lead with 2:32 left. Duvancic then missed a three and Stockman rebounded. Stockman drilled a clutch fadeaway jumper from 18 feet to put the Buckeyes up 59-52 with 1:41 left.
NU's Mohamed Hachad then drove toward the basket, but Dials and Sullinger converged to snuff the shot. Stockman, Butler and Sullinger each made a pair of free throws in the final 1:20 to put it away.
* The win was OSU's 11th in a row over Northwestern overall and fifth straight in Welsh-Ryan Arena dating to a 70-62 loss on Feb. 21, 1998.
* OSU improved to 1-5 on the road and 1-3 in road Big Ten games this year. The Buckeyes are now 7-19 on the road, including 7-11 in Big Ten road games, since the 2001-02 Big Ten championship season.
* In his fifth year as a college head coach, Matta is now 116-38, including 34-20 in road games.
* Butler's 10-point outburst matched his career high set in the Dec. 31 win over St. Joseph's. It was also his first points in seven Big Ten games and the first points he has scored since he tallied two in a Jan. 15 loss at LSU.
* OSU returns home to host Purdue (4-13, 0-6) at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Michigan (12-7, 3-2) at 12:17 p.m. next Saturday. These will be OSU's only meetings with those two teams, who play each other Sunday.
The Purdue game will be televised by ESPN-Plus, but it will be preempted in Columbus because of the State of the Union address. It will be shown on Ohio News Network.