EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern's final run came in the last 3 minutes and turned Welsh-Ryan Arena into a madhouse of emotion and noise.
Trailing by 13 points at one juncture in the second half, the Wildcats scored eight straight, tying the game on a 3-pointer by Alex Marcotullio with 7.7 seconds to go. Hunting for the school's first-ever NCAA tournament berth, Northwestern was closing in on the marquee win it needed.
But in a replay of what happened most of the game, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger took a long pass after a timeout, and banked in a go-ahead shot with 3.1 seconds left, giving the 10th-ranked Buckeyes had a 75-73 victory.
Northwestern's John Shurna put up a last-second desperation shot that hit the rim — close but not enough — a feeling the Wildcats have had throughout this season.
"Disappointment. Kind of a tough way to go out," said Shurna, the leading scorer in Northwestern history who finished with 22 points in his regular-season home finale.
Shurna's shot that could have won the game looked on target.
"Thought it had a chance," Shurna said. "Put it up there and hope for the best. ... That's all you can do."
All Northwestern can do now is go to Iowa for a regular-season finale on Saturday and try to beat the stubborn Hawkeyes on their home court, a real challenge.
"It's very tough. Every close loss is tough," said Drew Crawford, who led the Wildcats (17-12, 7-10) with 23 points. "We're a resilient bunch We'll be ready to go Saturday."
Ohio State (24-6, 12-5), which had lost three of five, still has a chance to tie for the Big Ten title if it can win at No. 5 Michigan State in Sunday's regular season finale. The Spartans already have at least a share of the championship, despite losing to Indiana on Tuesday night.
"It's pretty cool," Sullinger said.
Deshaun Thomas added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Aaron Craft scored 14 points with four 3-pointers for the Buckeyes, who outrebounded Northwestern 44-18, including 20-6 on the offensive boards.
"They killed us on the second shot," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said.
"My games flows with it. I haven't been rebounding as well as I did last year," Sullinger said, somewhat amazed as the discrepancy on the boards.
"We kind of played off the mismatches. Never been a part of something like that," he added. "We were determined."
Ohio State had beaten the Wildcats 87-54 in the league opener in late December, but this one was certainly more competitive — just not on the boards.
The Buckeyes led 73-65 with about 3 minutes left before Northwestern rallied as Dave Sobolweski hit a 3-pointer and Reggie Cobb made two free throws. Cobb later came up with a steal and called a timeout, setting up Marcotullio's game-tying 3-pointer.
"I really like the way we came back. Different guys came through for us. There will be some good that comes out of this," Carmody said.
"We have to go to Iowa and win on the road. We have to win that game."