Takeaways: Ohio State 95, Northwestern 87
The result was a familiar one for Northwestern: they came up short. The road to that result was different, though.
After leading for most of the game in Wednesday's loss to Penn State, Northwestern never led in Columbus on Sunday, losing 95-87. It was the third straight loss for the Wildcats, and 17th in 18 games at Value City Arena.
The Cats were hurt early by a barrage from Ohio State's EJ Liddell, who scored 17 points in the first five minutes of the game. Northwestern trailed by as much as 15 in the first half and was behind by 12 at the intermission.
The second half was better for NU; they actually outscored OSU by four. The Cats were able to shave the deficit to four on a Ty Berry three with 15:45 remaining, but the game was never that close again.
The Wildcats had three player score in the 20s, with Berry being the high-point man at 23. Pete Nance and Chase Audige both totaled 20. Boo Buie was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 11.
Amazingly, the Buckeyes rang up 95 points with only two double-digit scorers. Liddell made a strong statement in his national player of the year candidacy, pouring in 35 points on 60% shooting from the field. Malaki Branham, who was averaging 9.3 points per game coming in, added 24 points.
Here are our takeaways from Northwestern's third-consecutive loss, which dropped their record to 8-5 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play:
Liddell comes out firing: Before five minutes had come off the clock, Liddell had 17 points on 6-6 shooting, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. Northwestern just couldn't keep pace with the junior's barrage to start the game, and it put the Cats behind for good.
Northwestern struggled with stopping Seth Lundy at the end of their last game, but Lundy was hitting mostly tightly-contested shots. Liddell was often left wide open on most of his makes, which allowed him to get in rhythm.
Northwestern had trouble all day trying to slow down Liddell. Offensively, the Wildcats had a good all-around day, but Ohio State had the best player on the floor, and that made the difference.
Berry sets career-high: The sophomore guard's career game was overshadowed by Liddell's performance, but Berry beat his previous career-high of 17 points, set earlier this year against New Orleans.
Berry was 8-of-12 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range for a total of 23 points. Fourteen of his points came in the second half, when he was almost singlehandedly keeping the Buckeyes within reach.
Berry had only cracked double figures twice since mid-November so it was a welcome sign to see the sharpshooter find his touch from the field.
Defense is the Cats' biggest problem: After Northwestern's loss to Penn State, head coach Chris Collins lamented about the team's defense in the second half. But on Sunday, the defensive problems went from the opening tip to the final whistle.
Ohio State scored 51 points in the first half, when they shot 67% from the floor and hit nine three-pointers. Northwestern is not an offensive juggernaut that can regularly score in the 90s, so losing a game in which they scored 87 points has to sting a little extra.
Beran disappears: Robbie Beran came into Northwestern as a stretch-4 who could shoot, someone who many believed would give the offense a lift. As it nears the halfway point of his third year in Evanston, however, that has not been the case.
Beran didn't even score against Ohio State, going 0-for-6 from the field before fouling out. He came into the game averaging only 6.4 points per game. He has scored in double-figures just twice all season and doesn't even look for his shot.
Beran isn't shooting poorly, 51.7% from the field entering the Ohio State game, and 37.9% from behind the arc. He just doesn't shoot that often, only 4.8 times per game. Northwestern needs all the help it can get on offense on most nights, and Beran's reluctance to attack puts them at a disadvantage.
Roper II returns: Freshman guard Julian Roper II had missed the last two games for an undisclosed reason, but the Wildcats' perimeter defense got a boost with his return on Sunday.
Roper II finished an and-one for his only points of the game. He also grabbed two rebounds and dished out two assists.