Sunday, February 03, 2002

No. 25 Ohio St. 58, Northwestern 57

Northwestern can't hit at buzzer

AP Sports Writer

        COLUMBUS — Zach Williams, Brent Darby — and a helping of good fortune — made the difference for No.25 Ohio State.

        Williams hit the second of two foul shots with 16 seconds left, and the Buckeyes survived a close call at the finish to beat Northwestern 58-57 Saturday.

        “Any time you're going to have a successful season, you're going to have to win games you're lucky to win,” Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. “I have not felt that way until this afternoon.”

        Williams, a 65 percent free throw shooter, had missed three of four attempts before stepping to the line late. His first shot clanked off the back of the rim, but the second hit nothing but net to give Ohio State (17-3, 8-1 Big Ten) its first lead since midway through the first half.

        “I thought, "I've got to make one,'” Williams said. “Missing that first one made it tougher. I just took a deep breath and told myself to follow my routine.”

        Northwestern (12-8, 3-5) brought the ball down court and patiently passed it around the perimeter until Tavaras Hardy drove across the paint and put up a 10-foot fadeaway over Williams that hesitated on the rim before falling off with two seconds left.

        “Guys got banged around a little bit, but I guess you have to hit that shot if you want to win in the Big Ten,” said Hardy, who had 12 points. “It was just the way the ball bounced for us.”

        The Wildcats' Jitim Young then attempted to quickly toss the ball up toward the rim, with Ohio State's Brian Brown rebounding at the final buzzer.

        “Jitim had a good follow, but he didn't quite get it there,” said Northwestern's Winston Blake, who led the Wildcats with 25 points.

        The victory was Ohio State's 23rd straight at home against Northwestern, dating to 1977.

        Darby scored a career-high 26 points for the Buckeyes, including 11 in a row before Williams' key free throw. Brown added 10 points for Ohio State, which has won 11 of its last 12 games and 15 of its last 16 in the conference.

        Blake was 4-of-5 on 3-pointers for the Wildcats, who were 9-0 this season when leading at halftime. Northwestern made half of its 16 attempts behind the arc.

        The Wildcats led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Ohio State wouldn't go away. The Buckeyes drew to 51-48 on two free throws by Darby with 5:19 left, but Blake came right back with a 3-pointer.

        Ohio State got back to 54-51 on three foul shots by Darby before he drew a charging foul on Hardy at the other end.

        “It's simple: We weren't able to contain Darby,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “He was banging his way through us and he got to the basket all the time.”

        Darby then slashed through the middle of the lane to cut it to 54-53 with 2:13 remaining. After a timeout, Northwestern worked the ball around until the shot clock was running down. Just as Blake shot from behind the arc, the shot-clock buzzer sounded — the ball swishing through the net with 1:32 left.

        Darby drove the lane for another layup to cut the lead to 57-55, before Hardy missed a 3-point attempt with 42 seconds left. Darby was fouled with 29 seconds remaining and hit both shots to tie it.

        “It's a little kid's dream to make free throws at the end of big games,” said Darby, who had 22 points in a victory over No.12 Illinois on Tuesday night.

        The Wildcats then turned the ball over when Vedran Vukusic drove the lane and lost control of the ball, running over Williams under the basket. Vukusic was called for a foul, sending Williams to the line and setting up the wild finish.

        “We decided to be aggressive at the defensive end,” O'Brien said. “We wanted to trap and try to create some chaos.” Darby went 8-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers, and 7-of-8 at the line.

        Northwestern, which had won four of its last five, trailed 15-8 early but then came back with a 22-7 spurt to lead 30-22. The Wildcats did it in their customary way — making multiple passes before putting up a shot, then playing tight defense.

        The Wildcats went 7-of-10 from the field during the spurt, while Ohio State was 2-of-12.

        Ahead 35-30 at halftime, Northwestern led 43-33 on Blake's backdoor basket with 17:50 left in the game.

        “To win the Big Ten title, these are the kinds of games you have to win,” Darby said.
        NORTHWESTERN (12-8) — Blake 8-11 5-5 25, Hardy 4-10 2-3 12, Jennings 3-8 0-0 8, Young 2-6 2-2 6, Drayton 1-1 0-0 2, Vukusic 1-4 0-0 2, Burke 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-42 9-10 57.

        OHIO ST. (17-3) — Williams 3-5 2-6 8, Radinovic 1-2 0-0 2, Darby 8-11 7-8 26, Brown 5-10 0-0 10, Savovic 1-6 2-2 5, Fuss-Cheatham 0-1 0-0 0, Connolly 0-4 0-0 0, Dials 3-7 0-0 6, Dudley 0-1 1-2 1, Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 12-18 58.

        Halftime—Northwestern 35-30. 3-Point goals—Northwestern 8-16 (Blake 4-5, Hardy 2-4, Jennings 2-4, Young 0-1, Vukusic 0-2), Ohio St. 4-13 (Darby 3-5, Savovic 1-4, Connolly 0-2, Brown 0-2). Fouled out—Vukusic. Rebounds— Northwestern 15 (Jennings 4), Ohio St. 32 (Williams, Martin 7). Assists—Northwestern 11 (Drayton 6), Ohio St. 11 (Savovic 4). Total fouls—Northwestern 18, Ohio St. 13. A—19,200.


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