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EVANSTON, Ill. – No one could have blamed Thad Matta for letting out a sigh of relief. Top-ranked Ohio State’s coach expected a difficult time against Northwestern, and that’s exactly what the unbeaten Buckeyes got Saturday night.

They also found a way to capture their 22nd straight victory, thanks to a late steal from veteran David Lighty and a tie-breaking free throw from freshman star Jared Sullinger to pull out a 58-57 victory over the short-handed and determined Wildcats.

“We’re going to celebrate our wins,” Matta said. “What an incredible basketball game. I think we had some spurts, but give Northwestern credit. They got a rhythm going.”

Once again it was Sullinger coming through for the Buckeyes. Northwestern had a chance to take the lead, but Lighty stole a pass near the basket with 17 seconds to go. And the Buckeyes then worked the ball into the 6-foot-9, 280-pound Sullinger.

He was double-teamed throughout the game and in this instance, once he got the ball to go up near the basket, he was fouled. With Northwestern’s student section trying to distract him with waves and screams, he hit the rim with his first attempt and swished the second.

“That’s what I want. If they double me or guard me one-on-one, it’s going to be good for us. Because I can kick it out,” Sullinger said.

After three timeouts, Northwestern got a long attempt from Drew Crawford that hit the backboard.

“It was very physical down there. I thought Jared kept his composure and handled himself really well,” Matta added. “I knew we’d get a pretty good look. … He’s hit some big shots and made some big free throws.”

Sullinger finished with 21 points and Aaron Craft had 13 points for Ohio State.

Leading by only two at the half, Ohio State (22-0, 9-0 Big Ten) pulled out to a 13-point lead in the second half with a 14-4 run.

But Northwestern, playing without leading scorer John Shurna because of a concussion, came back behind senior guard Michael Thompson, who led the Wildcats with 16 points — 13 in the second half.

Thompson’s 3-pointer with 3:51 left capped a 21-7 run as the Wildcats took a 55-54 lead and the crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena erupted.

“I stayed confident throughout,” Thompson said, looking to the rest of the season. “There is a lot to take away from this game.”

Ohio State’s Jon Diebler — No. 5 all-time in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made — hit one for his first basket of the game to put the Buckeyes right back in front 57-55.

Thompson then sailed through the lane and the 5-foot-10 guard floated the ball into the basket for a tie with 1:31 left.

After an Ohio State turnover and then a foul, Northwestern retained possession and tried to set up a go-ahead shot. But Lighty foiled it.

“It’s discouraging, disappointing,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “Because you want to get the last shot in that situation. Or a shot. And we didn’t.”

Northwestern (13-8, 3-7) fell to 0-16 all-time against top-ranked teams.

Thompson’s 3-pointer with 7:53 left cut the lead to nine, and Ohio State’s Dallas Lauderdale was called for an intentional foul on the play near the basket. Davide Curletti made 1 of 2 free throws and the Wildcats retained possession with JerShon Cobb hitting a 3-pointer. The seven-point possession made it 51-46 with just a little more than seven minutes remaining.

It was a sequence that got Northwestern back in the game. The Wildcats were successful most of the night with their deliberate pass-and-cut offense that would often take the shot clock down to the final seconds.

“They’re going to get backdoor layups. They’re going to hit some 3s,” Matta said

“But it’s in between of trying to wear them down a little bit. And fortunately we did that.”

Northwestern won the boards, despite the absence of the 6-8 Shurna, 31-20 and had 14 on the offensive end. Ohio State shot 57 percent for the game and Sullinger was 7 for 12 from the field.

Shurna, who averages 19 points, sat on the bench in warmups with a boot on his left ankle that had been sprained earlier this season.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have now matched the second longest winning streak in school history.

In 2006-07, Ohio State also won 22 straight, counting tournament games, before losing in the NCAA championship game. The 1961-62 team was victorious in its first 22 games. The longest Buckeyes win streak was 32, spanning two seasons from 1959-60 (last five) to 1960-61 (first 27).

 

No. 1 Ohio State 58 (22-0, 9-0), Northwestern 57 (13-8, 3-7)                                                     
Welsh-Ryan Arena – Evanston, Ill.
January 29, 2011
Attendance: 8,117
POSTGAME NOTES
 
 TEAM

  • The Buckeyes’ 22-0 overall record is tied for the second-best start in school history (1960-61, 27-0; 1961-62, 22-0). Ohio State currently holds the nation’s longest active winning streak at 22. They are the only remaining unbeaten team in the country.
  • The 21-game winning streak is the fourth longest in Ohio State history (1959-61, 32; 1961-62 and 2006-07, 22).
  • The one-point margin of victory is the smallest Ohio State had won by all season. In one-point games all-time Ohio State is 67-56 and 19-24 on the road.
  • Ohio State improved to 63-4 when ranked first in the country by the Associated Press.
  • The Buckeyes are 49-1 in regular season games as the AP No. 1 team. The record improves to 52-1 in non-NCAA tournament games when AP No. 1.
  • As a ranked team, Ohio State is 383-105 all-time. The Buckeyes are 31-1 at home over the last two seasons.
  • The Buckeyes improved to 36-1 against Big Ten opponents when ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press.
  • The Buckeyes are 120-17 when ranked among the Top 3 in the country.
  • When ranked in the Top 10 nationally, Ohio State is 262-56 with wins in 53 of its last 55 outings.
  • Ohio State moved to 5-0 vs. Northwestern when ranked No. 1 (the previous four wins took place from Jan. 14, 1961 through Feb. 3, 1962).
  • Ohio State is now 383-105 as a ranked team.
  • Ohio State is 37-2 in its last 39 Big Ten games.
  • The Buckeyes are 108-45 vs. the Wildcats all-time, improving their overall Big Ten record to 710-658.
  • Northwestern moves to 0-16 vs. AP No. 1-ranked team.
  • Ohio State improves to 44-31 vs. Northwestern in Evanston.
  • Ohio State is 31-2 vs. Northwestern when ranked among the Associated Press Top 25.
  • The Buckeye freshmen have accounted for 47.5 percent of total scoring for the season, including 34 of Ohio State’s 58 total points against Northwestern.
  • Ohio State’s four returning starters for 2010-11 (Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and William Buford) have combined for 380 career starts and 485 games played.
  • This is the 247th-consecutive game Ohio State has made at least one 3-point field goal (1/10/04 vs. Penn State was the last game with zero made).
  • The win against Northwestern was the 73rd victory for the Buckeyes since the 2008-09 season, which ties Butler for fifth-best in the nation.
  • Ohio State has won its last 12 true road games dating back to the 2009-10 season (last road loss was at No. 11 West Virginia, Jan. 23, 2010).
  • The Buckeyes have won their last 11 Big Ten road contest since losing to Minnesota 73-62 Jan. 9, 2010. It is the second longest conference road winning streak in Ohio State history (previous best was 14 between the seasons 1959-60 and 1961-62).
  • With the win, the Buckeyes hold the record for the best start to as season after losing the National Player of the Year (Evan Turner). The previous record was held by UCLA in 1969-70 when they went 21-0 after they lost Player of the Year Lew Alcindor.
  • Ohio State’s 27 halftime points are the fewest they have scored at intermission this season (28 previous low; Miami, 11/26 and Florida St., 11/30).

THAD MATTA

  • The 22-0 record to begin the season is the best start for Thad Matta at Ohio State (previous best was in 2005-06, when the team began 11-0).
  • This season is the seventh-consecutive year Matta has guided the Buckeyes to a 20-win campaign. That extends the longest streak in Ohio State history.
  • Since Matta took over at Ohio State in 2004-05, the Buckeyes have amassed 78 Big Ten wins, the most of any other team. Wisconsin is second with 77 (The Badgers lost 56-52 to Penn State on Saturday).
  • Matta has won at least 20 games in each of his 11 seasons as a head coach. Only Mark Few (Gonzaga), among active coaches, has more consecutive 20-win seasons to start a career.
  • Matta improved his career record to 280-85 overall and 178-54 at Ohio State.
  • With the win, Ohio State is 41-19 (.644) in January under Matta and 7-0 this season.
  • Matta is now 10-1 vs. Northwestern in his career, with an overall mark of 88-37 against Big Ten opponents.
  • Matta is 90-17 vs. non-conference competition at Ohio State and 88-37 vs. Big Ten foes (regular season and Big Ten tournament games) for an overall record of 178-54. He is 114-10 in games played in Columbus.
  • Ohio State improved to 17-0 on the season and 147-19 overall in games under Matta when they lead at the half.
  • Ohio State is 17-0 this season and 158-17 under Matta when shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponent.
  • During Matta’s tenure at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are 164-5 when leading with five minutes to play.
  • Ohio State is 11-0 on the season and 91-48 under Matta when having a field goal percentage of 50 percent or better.
  • The Buckeyes are 20-0 this season and 148-43 when having 15 or fewer turnovers in a game (Ohio State had five turnovers vs. Northwestern).
  • Northwestern attempted the most 3-point field goals (30) of any Buckeye opponent so far this season (previous high was 25, UT Martin, 12/27/10).

JARED SULLINGER

  • Big Ten Player/Freshman of the Week Jared Sullinger finished the contest with 21 points. Sullinger has scored at least 10 points in 20 of 22 games. It is his sixth time this season with 20-plus points.
  • Sullinger also added eight rebounds for the Buckeyes. He now has 218 rebounds on the season.

DAVID LIGHTY

  • Lighty has played in 142 games as a Buckeye, the most all-time in an Ohio State uniform. Lighty also leads all NCAA active players in games played (Duke’s Kyle Singler is second with 130).
  • Lighty, the third player in Ohio State history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists, ended the contest with six points and two rebounds. Lighty’s current marks: 1,284 points, 511 rebounds and 328 assists.
  • Lighty recorded his 116th win as a Buckeye vs. Northwestern on Saturday. He had 35 as a freshman, 25 as a sophomore, 29 as a junior and seven during the 2008-09 season when he received a medical redshirt because of a broken foot. He set the OSU record with his 112th win.
  • The game vs. Northwestern marked senior David Lighty’s 110th career start for Ohio State. He is one start away from tying Kelvin Ransey for seventh-place in career games started in a Buckeye jersey.
  • With six points, Lighty is one point away from tying Clark Kellogg for 26th-place in Ohio State history for career scoring.

 
JON DIEBLER

  • With one made 3-pointer vs. Northwestern, senior Jon Diebler now has 323 for his career, four away from tying Cory Bradford (327, Illinois, 1998-2002) for third place in career 3-pointers made in Big Ten history.
  • With one made 3-pointer, Diebler extends his streak to 38 games in a row with at least one 3-pointer made.
  • Diebler’s current 3-point field goal percentage of 47 percent (63-133) puts him in the record books as having the best single season three-point percentage.
  • With three points against the Wildcats, Diebler now has 1,317 career points. He is 18 points behind Jim Cleamons for 23rd place.

 
WILLIAM BUFORD

  • Junior guard William Buford knocked down 11 points, pushing his career total to 1,188. Buford passed Lawrence Funderburke (1,179) for 32nd place in all-time career scoring at Ohio State. He is 23 behind X for 31st.
  • The 11 points for Buford are the 16th time this season he has scored in double-figures.

 AARON CRAFT

  • Aaron Craft had three assists. He now has 106 assists on the season to just 46 turnovers.
  • Craft scored 13 points, the fifth time in Big Ten competition he has scored 10 or more.