Saturday saw chaos throughout the national top-25 with four teams in the top ten falling and for more than a passing moment it seemed as if the number one Buckeyes were in trouble as well. But David Lighty forced a turnover by Northwestern's Alex Marcotullio with 18 seconds left and Jared Sullinger hit his second free throw shot on the other end to untie the game and send Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) home with a 58-57 win over Northwestern (13-8, 3-7).
The Cats were content to let the Buckeye get looks inside and did their best to take away the outside shot of the Buckeyes. Sullinger was able to get his with 21 points and eight rebounds but three missed free throws down the stretch made things tough for Ohio State. The Buckeyes ended up going 2-7 from the line during their final seven attempts.
Fellow freshman Aaron Craft had 13 points for the Buckeyes while William Buford had 11. The Wildcats were without John Shurna who missed the game with a concussion but were led by clutch shooting from Michael Thompson and Shurna's replacement, Mike Capocci bested his 2 point a game average with 11 points.
The writing was on the wall most of the way for the Buckeyes that this was going to be a tight game and Ohio State only took a two point lead to the halftime locker room. David Lighty and Jon Diebler were largely kept out of the scoring column in the first half and the two only combined for nine total points in the final score tally.
Diebler waited for the most critical time to score his three points however and extend his three-point streak (at least one in 38 straight games) when he answered a Thompson three pointer that had given the Cats a 55-54 lead with less than four minutes to go. Diebler's shot gave Ohio State a two point lead and would be the last points that Ohio State would score from the field.
Thompson would have an equalizer with 1:31 left in the game as his driving floater would fall with one second left on the shot clock and knot the game up at 57-all. The Buckeyes would have some opportunties to regain the lead but Craft committed one of his two turnovers when he tried to work the ball to Diebler cross court.
The Buckeyes had a foul to give and ended up fouling Thompson but it was deep in the shot clock and was likely not what the team was looking for. But that did put the Buckeyes in a position to win it with defense or at least give the offense a chance at the other end to escape with the win.
"We just had to play defense," Sullinger said. "Our defense was going to carry us through."
The defense did carry the Buckeyes through because Marcotullio thought he had an open lane to hit JerShon Cobb flashing to the basket but Lighty was in his hip pocket and was able to step in front of the pass.
"Dave is always in the play and Dave is always playing defense," Sullinger said. "He's a great defender."
Sullinger was sent to the line with 3.5 seconds left in the game and sent a nervous chill down the backs of the Buckeye Nation when he barely drew front iron on the first of his two free throw shots but the second one was pure and gave Ohio State the one point lead.
The two teams traded multiple timeouts as they guessed and second guessed what their opponent was going to do with less than four seconds left. The Buckeyes elected to not guard the inbound pass and Drew Crawford received the inbound pass and made it just across half court and came up wide left with his shot.
"We knew that Northwestern was going to give us their best shot and they always play so great at home," Sullinger said. "It was a great game by Northwestern."
The Buckeyes will now return home and taken on Michigan in the return engagement of their series on February 3rd as the Buckeyes look to stay perfect on the season. The win on Saturday gives Ohio State 22 straight wins which ties streaks of 22 over the 2006-07 season and the 1961-62 season. There is still a ways to go to reach the all-time Ohio State record that spans 32 games which went through 1959-1961.