Northwestern improved to 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 1967-68 season after taking down the #23 Ohio State Buckeyes, 71-70, in back-and-forth battle at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that featured 15 different lead changes, the Wildcats stepped up in the final minutes once again as they mounted a 14-6 run over the game’s final 5:10 to capture their third Big Ten win in six days, and second over a ranked opponent. This marks the first time Northwestern has defeated AP-Top 25 ranked teams in a one-week span since the 2012-13 campaign, when they went 2-1 in a six-day span with wins over #23 Illinois and #12 Minnesota on Jan. 17 and Jan. 23, respectively.
Miller Kopp led the way for the Wildcats, finishing one point shy of his career high with 23 points on an impressive 9-of-16 shooting performance, including going 3-of-4 from behind the arc. But it was Boo Buie who stepped up in the final minute for the ‘Cats, hitting a deep three-pointer with the game tied at 68-68 to give the Wildcats the lead, which they would never relinquish.
Buie finished with 14 points on the afternoon, 10 of which came in the second half, and led all players with five assists. The sophomore guard from Albany, N.Y. also came up big on the defensive end, forcing a stop with just five second remaining to preserve a one-point victory
After starting the game 0-of-6, the Wildcats knocked down six-consecutive shots as part of an 11-0 run to take an early first half lead.
Kopp jumpstarted the scoring for the Wildcats, scoring 12 of the Wildcats’ first 14 points of the game while knocking down his first five shots of the game. The junior sharpshooter led all players at the half with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
The teams entered the half all squared at 34-34, however the Buckeyes pulled ahead and led for much of the second half, with their lead growing to as many as seven on two different ocassions, including at the 6:59 mark. From there, the Wildcat defense buckled down and held OSU to 2-of-9 over the final six minutes to close out the game.
For the second-consecutive game, Chase Audige stepped up when it mattered most for the ‘Cats, capitalizing on a fast break dunk with 3:59 remaining followed by a three-pointer with 1:48 left to put the ‘Cats on top, 68-66. The Buckeyes knotted the score at 68-68 on the following possession, but it was Buie who delivered the dagger with 1:04 remaining with a deep triple, his second of the game, to put the ‘Cats ahead for good.
Ryan Young turned in another solid performance in the paint, finishign with eight points while leading the team in rebounds for the second-straight game with seven. Pete Nance also finished in double figures, scoring 10 points on an efficient 4-of-7 shooting performance.