Dec. 28, 2011

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – William Buford had career-highs of 28 points and five 3-pointers as No. 2 Ohio State showed off its perimeter shooting in an 87-54 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Jared Sullinger added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Buckeyes (13-1, 1-0), who dominated the boards 49-30.

Deshaun Thomas had 16 points for Ohio State, which broke the game open with a 13-0 first-half run fueled by 3-pointers. Jordan Sibert added 12 points, all on 3s.

The conference’s top two scorers, John Shurna and Drew Crawford, had miserable games. They were held to 11 and 13 points, respectively, on a combined 9-for-30 shooting.

The loss was the 31st straight for the Wildcats (10-3, 0-1) in Columbus, dating to 1977.

Ohio State came in 11th in the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game at 4.8. They had hit more than six in only one game, when they made 8 of 14 in a stunningly easy 85-63 rout of then-No. 3 Duke on Nov. 29. Yet they were 7 of 14 behind the arc in the first half alone Wednesday to build a lead they never lost.

The Buckeyes finished 10 of 20 on 3-pointers.

Freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski had 10 points and five assists for the Wildcats, who were beginning a seven-game span in which they play five ranked teams.

Northwestern, down by as many as 19 points in the first half, took advantage of foul trouble for Sullinger and point guard Aaron Craft which forced them to the bench early in the second half. The Wildcats kept the deficit in the 12- to 15-point range.

But the Wildcats started picking up fouls as well and Ohio State hit free throws to stretch the lead.

Buford hit four foul shots in a 10-3 run – all the points coming at the line – to push the lead to 59-39 with 11:55 left. By then, a refreshed Sullinger and Craft were back on the court and the game was well in hand for Ohio State.

With Shurna and Crawford struggling – shadowed wherever they went, taking bad shots when they did get a chance – the Buckeyes took a 41-26 halftime lead.

The pace favored the Wildcats in the early going. They pulled to a tie at 13 on Davide Curletti’s 3 at the 12:16 mark.

But the Buckeyes suddenly found the range behind the arc and the game teetered in their favor.

Sibert, just 8 for 31 on 3-pointers coming in, hit 3 of 4, as did Buford. Sibert’s 3 ignited a 13-0 rally as the Buckeyes held the Wildcats scoreless for 4:36.

Thomas hit a short jumper before Buford nailed a 3 and then made the play of the game. Shurna muscled past the smaller Craft and broke free for a short jumper but Buford went high to block it.

That seemed to set the tone for the rest of the surge. Sibert hit another 3 and Buford followed with a perimeter jumper that was first signaled a 3 but then discounted to a two-point basket after a video review.

Even after Luka Mirkovic ended the scoring drought with the Wildcats’ second two-point basket of the opening 12 1/2 minutes, Ohio State kept pouring it on. It led by as many as 19. Northwestern never got closer than 11 again.

Shurna was 3 of 11 from the field and Crawford 1 of 7 in the first half, combining for 10 points.

Buford, who came in averaging 8 points and 4 rebounds in five previous games against Northwestern, had 13 points and 7 rebounds at halftime.

In two meetings last season, Ohio State, ranked No. 1 both times, won 58-57 in Evanston, Ill., and then pulled out a 67-61 overtime win in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.

The Buckeyes have won 34 consecutive home games, the second-longest streak at the school behind the 50 straight at home from 1959-64.

Northwestern has not beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since an 83-77 win at St. John Arena in 1977.