Jan. 29, 2005

Box Score |  Notes

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) – Ohio State toughened up its defense to erase an eight-point second half deficit and then showed it’s not how you start the game, but how you finish that counts.

The Buckeyes closed with a 22-1 run Saturday, a stunning reversal that produced a 65-52 Big Ten victory over Northwestern.

“I’m pleased with the way we fought back and got back in the game,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “Northwestern had really established itself, especially on the offensive end. We had to re-challenge ourselves to get back up and keep pressure on the basketball.”

J.J. Sullinger scored six of his team-high 15 points during the closing spurt as the Buckeyes (14-7, 3-4 Big Ten) countered a 13-2 run by Northwestern that had given the Wildcats (9-10, 2-5) their first lead of the game with 11:18 remaining.

The Buckeyes took a 52-51 lead they would not relinquish on back-to-back baskets by Sullinger and held Northwestern without a field goal over the game’s final 7:15.

“I couldn’t be happier for our guys,” Matta said. “I told them after the game that this was one of our best team wins. We came through this situation before and weren’t able to get over the hump.”

The Wildcats had led 51-43 after a three-point play by Vedran Vukusic, who scored a team-high 15 points. Davor Duvancic added 14 points for the Wildcats.

Matt Sylvester scored 12 points and Jamar Butler and Tony Stockman added 10 apiece for Ohio State, which won its second straight following a four-game losing streak.

Ohio State led 29-27 at halftime and widened the margin to 39-35 on Sylvester’s 3-pointer before Northwestern rallied to take an eight-point lead.

Northwestern, coming off a 75-74 overtime win over No. 23 Iowa, has lost five of its last six.