EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Lenzelle Smith Jr. made his mark right from the start and Deshaun Thomas came up big down the stretch for Ohio State. Good thing for the Buckeyes, because they needed all of it.
Smith scored a season-high 24 points, Thomas added 19 and No. 16 Ohio State used a late run to beat Northwestern 63-53 on Thursday night.
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.
"I give them tremendous credit, with all the injuries they've faced," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "They've kind of been knocked down a couple times."
Northwestern lost two of its best players -- Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire -- to season-ending injuries and that was after guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for the season for violating team policy. It's added up to a difficult season, but the Wildcats again found a way to make the Buckeyes sweat.
Northwestern led by a point twice in the second half and was up 49-48 with about 4 minutes remaining after a 3-pointer by Reggie Hearn. 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 straight 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.
They also took a step toward a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Securing one won't be easy with a trip to Indiana next week and home game against Illinois looming, but the Buckeyes did what they had to do in this one after squeezing by Northwestern two weeks earlier.
"When me and Deshaun are both connecting on the offensive end I feel like we're a very dangerous team," Smith said. "Obviously we have the second option when I'm going and then we get other guys going."
Tre Demps led Northwestern with 14 points. Dave Sobolewski finished with 13 after scoring a total of 12 in the previous three games -- all blowout losses.
No. 2 GONZAGA 70, BYU 65
PROVO, Utah -- Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points, Gary Bell Jr. hit four 3-pointers and No. 2 Gonzaga survived a late Brigham Young rally for a 70-65 victory and its 10th outright conference title.
The Bulldogs (28-2, 15-0 West Coast Conference) host Portland on Saturday and a win there could mean Gonzaga's first-ever No. 1 ranking.
Olynyk hit a key jumper down the stretch and Kevin Pangos made two free throws to help seal it.
BYU had one final chance with 6.6 seconds remaining and down three points but Gonzaga fouled Cusick before he could attempt a 3.
Tyler Haws had 19 points for BYU (20-10, 9-6) and Davies added 12 points and 11 rebounds in his final home game.
VIRGINIA 73, No. 3 DUKE 68
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Joe Harris scored a career-high 36 points and Virginia celebrated the 11-year anniversary of its last victory over a top 5 team by doing it again.
Akil Mitchell added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won its 16th consecutive victory at home. It came 11 years to the day since an 87-84 victory, also against No. 3 Duke.
Seth Curry led Duke with 28 points, all but five coming after halftime, and Quinn Cook had 22 for the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4). Mason Plumlee finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three turnovers.
No. 24 OREGON 85, OREGON ST. 75
EUGENE, Ore. -- Carlos Emory scored 21 points and Oregon completed the season sweep of the Civil War series.
Arsalan Kazemi had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Tony Woods added 16 points, and Johnathan Loyd scored 12 points for the Ducks (23-6, 12-4 Pac-12), who took one-half game lead in the conference.
Oregon trailed 41-34 at halftime and was down 51-46 near the midpoint of the second half before going on an 18-3 run to take a 64-54 lead with 8:59 to play.
Roberto Nelson scored 31 points for the Beavers (13-16, 3-13).
No. 25 LOUIS. TECH 84, UTAH ST 61
RUSTON, La. -- Brandon Gibson scored 20 points and Raheem Appleby added 15 as Louisiana Tech cruised in its first game as a nationally ranked team since 1985.
Louisiana Tech (25-3, 15-0 Western Athletic Conference) won its 17th straight game, a streak that has lasted more than two months.
Jarred Shaw and Ben Clifford both scored 14 points for Utah State. TeNale Roland added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Gibson made 8 of 11 shots from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, to lead a potent Louisiana Tech bench. The Bulldogs' bench outscored the starters 49-35.
MINNESOTA 89, No. 7 PENN ST. 81
MINNEAPOLIS -- Penn State had the opportunity to clinch the Big Ten regular-season title outright.
But the seventh-ranked Lady Lions lost their edge and stopped playing defense. Their punishment is a now-meaningful game at second-place and 20th-ranked Nebraska.
Micaella Riche scored 24 points to help sharp-shooting Minnesota beat Penn State 89-81 on Thursday night, ending a six-game winning streak for the Lions.
Maggie Lucas had 23 points for Penn State (23-4, 13-2), which plays Nebraska on Sunday. If the Lions lose, they'll be co-champions with the Huskers).
The conference's best-shooting team went 28 for 42 from the floor (66.7 percent).