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No. 1 Buckeyes run into resistance, but remain unbeaten

Northwestern’s Davide Curletti (left) and Alex Marcotullio look to have Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger in a tight spot. Northwestern’s Davide Curletti (left) and Alex Marcotullio look to have Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger in a tight spot. (Frank Polich/Reuters)
Associated Press / January 30, 2011

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No one could have blamed Thad Matta for letting out a sigh of relief. The coach of top-ranked Ohio State expected a difficult time against Northwestern, and that’s exactly what the unbeaten Buckeyes got last night.

They also found a way to capture their 22d straight victory, thanks to a late steal from veteran David Lighty and a tiebreaking free throw from freshman star Jared Sullinger to pull out a 58-57 victory over the shorthanded and determined Wildcats in Evanston, Ill.

“We’re going to celebrate our wins,’’ Matta said. “I think we had some spurts, but give Northwestern credit. They got a rhythm going.’’

Once again it was Sullinger who came through for the Buckeyes (9-0 Big Ten). Northwestern had a chance to take the lead, but Lighty stole a pass near the basket with 17 seconds to go. The Buckeyes worked the ball into Sullinger and he was fouled on a shot attempt.

With Northwestern’s student section trying to distract him with waves and screams, he hit the rim with his first attempt and swished the second.

The Wildcats (13-8, 3-7) then got a long attempt from Drew Crawford that hit the backboard.

Sullinger finished with 21 points and Aaron Craft had 13 points for Ohio State, which has matched the second-longest winning streak in school history.

Northwestern, playing without leading scorer John Shurna because of a concussion, got 16 points from senior guard Michael Thompson, 13 in the second half.

Pittsburgh 65, Rutgers 62 — The No. 2 Panthers (20-2, 8-1 Big East) avoided a second straight upset by scoring 12 of their last 15 points from the free throw line. Pitt, led by Ashton Gibbs’s 24 points, had only one basket in the final 7:03.

The host Scarlet Knights (12-9, 3-6) went for the tie with seven seconds to play, but Dane Miller’s 3-pointer hit off the backboard and Pitt ran out the clock.

San Diego St. 96, Wyoming 57 — Chase Tapley scored 24 points in 22 minutes, a sign of how easy a time the No. 4 Aztecs (21-1, 6-1 Mountain West) had at home.

Kansas 90, Kansas St. 66 — Thomas Robinson had 17 points and nine rebounds two days after his mother’s funeral, and the No. 6 Jayhawks (20-1, 5-1 Big 12) thoroughly outplayed the Wildcats (14-8, 2-5) in Lawrence, Kan.

Texas 71, Missouri 58 — The No. 7 Longhorns (18-3, 6-0) remained perfect in the Big 12 by holding the No. 12 Tigers (17-4, 3-3) to a season-low point total. Jordan Hamilton had 16 points and 13 rebounds for host Texas.

Georgetown 69, Villanova 66 — Austin Freeman scored 10 of his team’s final 12 points and finished with 30 to lead the 21st-ranked Hoyas (16-5, 5-4) past the No. 8 Wildcats in a Big East showdown in Philadelphia. Villanova (17-4, 5-3) trailed by 1 three times in the final 1:15, but each time Freeman responded.

New Mexico 86, BYU 77 — Freshman Tony Snell scored a career-high 16 points and made three huge 3-pointers in the final five minutes, helping the Lobos (15-7, 3-4 Mountain West) finish off a huge home victory over the ninth-ranked Cougars (20-2, 6-1), who got 32 points from Jimmer Fredette but lost for the first time in 11 games.

Marquette 76, Syracuse 70 — The No. 9 Orange (18-4, 5-4 Big East) suffered their fourth consecutive loss as the host Golden Eagles went over and through Syracuse’s zone defense. Jae Crowder scored 13 of his 25 points in the second half to pace Marquette (14-8, 5-4).

Purdue 73, Minnesota 61 — JaJuan Johnson scored 24 points by shooting 8 of 13 from the field, and Ryne Smith scored all 15 of his points in the second half to lead the 12th-ranked Boilermakers (18-4, 7-2 Big Ten) past the Golden Gophers (16-5, 5-4) in West Lafayette, Ind.

Nebraska 57, Texas A&M 48 — Jorge Brian Diaz had 16 points and the Cornhuskers (15-5, 3-3 Big 12) held the 13th-ranked Aggies (17-3, 4-2) to two field goals over the final 10 minutes in Lincoln, Neb.

Kentucky 66, Georgia 60 — Doron Lamb had 19 points and the 14th-ranked Wildcats (16-4, 4-2 SEC) avenged a loss to the visiting Bulldogs (14-6, 3-4) three weeks ago.

Penn St. 56, Wisconsin 52 — The Nittany Lions (12-8, 5-4) pulled off a third straight upset of a ranked Big Ten team at home, this time ending a 12-game losing streak to the No. 17 Badgers (15-5, 5-3). Talor Battle scored 22 points for Penn State.

Arkansas 89, Vanderbilt 78 — Rotnei Clarke erupted for 36 points and the Razorbacks (14-6, 4-3) handed the No. 19 Commodores (15-5, 3-3) their first home loss of the season.

Clemson 62, Florida St. 44 — The host Tigers rushed to a 22-6 lead and the No. 22 Seminoles never got closer than 8 the rest of the way. Jerai Grant had 14 points for Clemson (15-6, 4-3 ACC). Florida State (15-6, 5-2) committed 22 turnovers.

Mississippi St. 71, Florida 64 — Only four players scored for the host Bulldogs (11-9, 3-3 SEC), but all of them finished in double figures against the No. 24 Gators (16-5, 5-2), led by Dee Bost’s 24 points.