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COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the record book, it'll look just like all the other losses at Ohio State.
But it shouldn't. There should maybe be an asterisk.
Even Northwestern's players were proud of what they almost accomplished Thursday night.
"We only have seven scholarship players — and a full house and a good team we're playing against," Kale Abrahamson said. "We played with a lot of toughness for 37 minutes. It's just those last 3 minutes that we're going to regret."
Deshaun Thomas scored 11 of his 22 points in the last 7 minutes and the 13th-ranked Buckeyes used a late 12-0 run to hold off the short-handed Wildcats 69-59.
"We went to a 2-3 zone, we only had a couple of days (to prepare)," coach Bill Carmody said. "We hadn't played that in a few years, but I thought that was the best thing we could do to stay out of foul trouble. It was effective for most of the game. It was tied and then Thomas sort of took over at the end of the game."
It was Ohio State's 32nd consecutive home win against the Wildcats, dating back to Feb. 24, 1977 — a couple weeks before the original "Star Wars" hit movie theaters.
But it certainly didn't come easy.
"I'm not one for big meetings and speeches," Carmody said. "I just said, 'You guys have been in a lot of situations where you're underdogs and no one thought you had a chance. Go out there and play your tails off and if you do that, you get people's respect. I thought they did that."
They certainly did.
The Wildcats (13-12, 4-8 Big Ten), dealing with a rash of injuries, led by six points in the first half, by four with under seven minutes left and were dead even with a ranked opponent on its own floor with just over three minutes remaining.
Trailing most of the game, Ohio State finally built a 57-54 lead on a three-point play by Thomas and Sam Thompson's shot inside.
Tre Demps, who was 4 of 6 behind the arc in scoring 16 points for Northwestern, drilled one from the right wing to tie it again with 3:24 remaining as an uneasy crowd of 15,842 at Value City Arena held its collective breath.
But then Thomas scored in traffic and drew the fifth foul on Abrahamson with 3:03 left.
Reggie Hearn, who added 12 points for the Wildcats, drove from the left side and his shot, which could have tied it, instead sat tantalizingly on the back of the iron for a full 2 seconds before finally falling off.
From there, the Buckeyes reeled off points while the Wildcats could not seem to score.
An Aaron Craft layup, two Thomas foul shots, a pair of buckets around the hoop by Thompson and another two Thomas free throws put the game out of reach.
No one would have been surprised to see the Buckeyes blow out the Wildcats. They held a 111-45 upper hand all-time against Northwestern, including 65-14 in home games.
Also, the Wildcats were wounded. They recently lost starter Jared Swopshire, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after being hurt Feb. 9 at Iowa. Drew Crawford, who is on the cover of the media guide after averaging 16.1 points a game last season, has missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. Also sidelined are Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist), 7-foot-2 Chier Ajou (knee) and 7-0 Alex Olah (upper body).
"We played a great game for 37 minutes," Abrahamson said. "Coach (Carmody) just said in the locker room that they kind of outphysicaled us there at the end. We gave up some offensive rebounds that we shouldn't have."
Carmody could not be displeased, certainly with the effort.
"I didn't really know what to expect coming into the game because we've been a little depleted," Carmody said. "But I'm very proud of the way the guys competed."
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