By Axel Boada
EVANSTON, Ill. — After wasting an incredible first 10 minutes of play Thursday night, Northwestern walked into the locker room at halftime having blown an 11-point lead and trailing the Ohio State Buckeyes, 38-34.
However, the Wildcats decided to return the favor in the second half, pushing the Buckeyes to the brink before eventually falling, 69-67.
“We had every reason in this game… to kind of throw in the towel,” Coach Chris Collins said. “But our guys refused to do that, and I’m really proud of my group for that.”
Ohio State (15-5, 4-3 B1G) climbed to a 54-43 lead with 13:33 left in the game, due in large part to freshman guard D’Angelo Russell’s career-high 33 points. The Wildcats (10-9, 1-5 B1G) chipped away at that lead, until a big three-pointer by JerShon Cobb tied the game at 60-60 apiece with just under four minutes left.
But then, in the final half-minute of the game, things got peculiar.
Down four points, Vic Law stole the ball and dished it to Scottie Lindsey for the easy layup. He missed. With 20 seconds left, Tre Demps drove to the hoop and floated it over the defense. The ball rimmed out.
Yet with the game virtually over, Demps banked a long three to pull the ‘Cats within one with just 0.9 left on the game clock.
“I’m glad those guys had the courage to go in [for layups],” Collins said, ” [but] we gotta make them.”
According to Collins, the team knew stopping Russell was going to be difficult, so they planned on forcing him to take shots in high volume.
But he made shots in high volume.
Russell went 12-for-17 from the field, going 6-for-11 from three-point range. He also added seven rebounds and six assists.
“He’s gonna make a lot of money playing in the NBA. You gotta tip your hat off to him,” Demps said.
Despite falling short in a close conference game yet again, Demps said the team must build from these types of results.
“We have to be smarter down the stretch. We can’t have periods of time where we don’t play defense like we did in the end of the first half,” he said.
Despite showering his team with praise for their effort, Collins was not as kind to the officiating crew.
Collins was clearly livid during the game after a possible goaltend late in the game by Ohio State’s Shannon Scott was ruled a block. Afer the game, he said the referees gave him no explanation for the call.
“That’s usually how it works in this league,” Collins said.
Next up: The Wildcats travel to College Park, Md., to face the Maryland Terrapins Sunday.