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02/14/2013 10:51 PM EST
Thomas scores 22, Ohio State escapes upset, 69-59
OHIO ST 69, NORTHWESTERN 59

By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Usually, the two certainties at Ohio State
each winter are snow and a win whenever Northwestern comes to
town.



For 37 minutes that certainly wasn't the case Thursday night.



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.



It was their 32nd consecutive home win against the Wildcats,
dating o Feb. 24, 1977 - when another big underdog, "Rocky,"
would win the Oscar for Best Picture and Jimmy Carter was in the
White House.



But it certainly didn't come easy.



"I'm not one for big meetings and speeches," Northwestern coach
Bill 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), with just seven healthy
scholarship players, led by six points in the first half, by
four with under 7 minutes left and were dead even with a ranked
opponent on its own court with just over 3 minutes remaining.



"We got down five there at 48-43, but I told the players, `You
can't panic,"' Ohio State (18-6, 8-4) coach Thad Matta said..
"It was all going to come down to our defense."



The defense did its job, limiting the Wildcats - who were 11 of
26 on 3-pointers - to no long-distance shots in the waning
moments.



Thomas did the rest.



Ohio State rallied by scratching and clawing inside and on the
boards for points, finally grabbing a lead.



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
Kale 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.



At the other end, Aaron Craft, who had seven points, three
rebounds and six assists, then drove through the heart of the
Northwestern defense and, shifting hands in midair, flipped in a
left-handed layup to push the lead to 61-57 with 1:52 remaining.



"I found a lane and I was able to get it up on the backboard and
usually that's very friendly," Craft said. "I beat the shot
clock and fortunately it went in. We were doing a great job of
rebounding. Even if I would have missed it we had guys in
position to rebound the ball anyway."



Now the Wildcats, who had frustrated Ohio State's defense all
game by making from the perimeter, could not find the range.
After another miss, Thomas was fouled - Mike Turner's fifth -
and he banged in both free throws. Sam Thompson then added two
baskets in the final minute before Thomas made two more foul
shots to complete the 12-point assault.



"Coach just told me to post up. Instead of being in the
mid-post, go down low. If you notice, I played the 5. I haven't
played the 5 since high school," Thomas said when asked how he
broke out of a shooting slump in which he hit just 2 of his
first 10 shots from the field. "It just freed me up. We got open
on the post and Shannon (Scott) and Craft looked for me and I
got a couple of easy buckets and that got me going."

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