COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coming off its worst offensive game of the season, No. 13/12 Ohio State enjoyed its best offensive game of the year as the Buckeyes scored a season-high in a 95-87 victory over Northwestern on Sunday night.
Junior forward E.J. Liddell was a big reason why as he scored a career-high 34 points on a career-best 5-of-7 from long range. Liddell made just five combined shots over the last two games but came out on Sunday and made his fist six shots from the floor, including 5-of-5 from deep. He had 17 points in the first five minutes.
The Buckeyes, who never trailed in the game, improve to 10-3 on the season and 4-1 in conference play while Northwestern falls to 8-5 and 1-3.
Freshman Malaki Branham continued his recent hot streak. He finished with 24 points on 13-of-14 from the free throw line and dished-out a season-high five assists.
Jamari Wheeler, who was the shortest player on the floor, grabbed a game-high and season-high eight rebounds. He also had eight points, six assists and five steals.
Zed Key was strong inside, going 4-of-4 from the floor to finish with eight points and three rebounds.
Meechie Johnson Jr. and Cedric Russell came off the bench and made their presence felt, combining to go 5-of-6 from long range and finishing with six and nine points, respectively.
Ohio State shot 56.9 percent from the field and was 26-of-27 from the free throw line. The free throw shooting was key as the Buckeyes ran out to an early lead thanks to Liddell’s hot start and was able to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length the rest of the way.
The Buckeyes took as much as a 15-point lead in the first half and led 51-39 at the break thanks to a season-high 66.7 percent shooting in the opening half. Northwestern used an 8-0 run to creep to within four at 55-51 with 15:45 to play. But a 13-5 Buckeye run over the next five minutes helped restore and gave OSU some breathing room.
Northwestern got as close as six a couple of times in the final 3:20 but wasn’t able really threaten down the stretch.
The Buckeyes head back out on the road this week when they travel to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers Thursday night. Ohio State won the earlier meeting this season with Wisconsin 73-55 on Dec. 11 in Columbus.