Lenzelle Smith scored a season-high 24 points, Deshaun Thomas added 19 and No. 16 Ohio State used a late run to beat Northwestern 63-53 on Thursday night in Evanston.
The Buckeyes (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) moved one-half game ahead of Michigan and took sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten with another difficult win over a team that’s given them fits in recent years.
This time, they led by 11 points early in the second half and regrouped after Northwestern took the lead, sending the Wildcats (13-16, 4-12) to their sixth straight loss and eighth in nine games.
Northwestern led by a point twice in the second half and was up 49-48 with about 4 minutes remaining. But Ohio State outscored the Wildcats 15-4 the rest of the way.
Thomas scored six points during that stretch, and the Buckeyes took advantage of three turnovers to come away with a tight win.
Smith scored 14 points in the first half and had five of Ohio State’s 10 field goals, including four 3-pointers, as the Buckeyes grabbed a seven-point lead. He was 7 of 13 overall and hit 6 of 11 3s in the game, and the Buckeyes avoided another Big Ten upset after No. 1 Indiana lost to Minnesota and Penn State upset No. 4 Michigan this week.
Tre Demps led Northwestern with 14 points. Dave Sobolewski finished with 13 after scoring a total of 12 in the previous three games, but Northwestern came up short again.
The Wildcats have lost eight straight and 19 of 20 against Ohio State, but the lopsided record aside, recent games have been close – particularly at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
A year ago, the Buckeyes needed Jared Sullinger’s banked turnaround with 3.1 seconds left to escape with a 75-73 win. In 2011, they were 22-0 and No. 1 in the nation, but barely won, 58-57, with David Lighty making a late steal and Sullinger hitting a free throw.
The game at Value City Arena this season was anything but a breeze, with Northwestern in control most of the way before Ohio State put together a late 12-point run to pull out a 69-59 victory.
Virginia 73, No. 3 Duke 68: Joe Harris scored a career-high 36 points, and the Cavaliers celebrated the 11-year anniversary of their last victory over a top-5 team by doing it again, downing the third-ranked Blue Devils in Charlottesville, Va.
Akil Mitchell added 19 points and 12 rebounds as he and Harris outplayed Duke’s top twosome of Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, giving Virginia (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) its 16th consecutive victory at home. It came 11 years to the day since an 87-84 victory, also against No. 3 Duke.
Curry led Duke with 28 points, all but five coming after halftime, and Quinn Cook had 22, but the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4) failed to slow down either Harris or Mitchell, whose dominating play kept a sellout crowd giddy all night. Plumlee finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three turnovers, and several times looked up to see Mitchell dunking over him.
No. 25 Louisiana Tech 84, Utah St. 61: Brandon Gibson scored 20 points, Raheem Appleby added 15, and the Bulldogs cruised to victory at home in their first game as a nationally ranked team since 1985.
Louisiana Tech (25-3, 15-0 Western Athletic Conference) never left anything in doubt, taking a 15-2 lead in the opening minutes on the way to a 49-23 halftime advantage in Ruston, La. It was a surprisingly lopsided game considering the Bulldogs beat Utah State (19-8, 9-6) 51-48 in Logan, Utah, on Jan. 26.
Louisiana Tech used its constant full-court press and deep bench to frustrate the Aggies. The Bulldogs are on a 17-game winning streak that has lasted more than 2 months.
Jarred Shaw and Ben Clifford both scored 14 points for Utah State.
W. Illinois 53, UMKC 50: Michael Ochereobia scored 14 points, and the Leathernecks stayed in contention for a share of the Summit League title by rallying past UMKC in Macomb.
Ceola Clark added 13 points and six assists for Western Illinois (20-7, 12-3), which can tie South Dakota State atop the conference by beating South Dakota on Saturday. SDSU finished its regular season Thursday with a win over Nebraska-Omaha.
UMKC opened the game on a 22-5 run and led by as many as 18 in the first half, but WIU came all the way back, taking its first lead, 50-48, on Ochereobia’s three-point play with 3:47 left. UMKC’s Kirk Korver made a jumper before Clark hit two free throws for the final margin.
The Kangaroos (7-23, 4-11) lost their fourth straight. Estan Tyler scored 17 points, but he also had nine turnovers and missed a game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.