The Buckeyes got all they could handle this evening against a wounded but surprisingly game Wildcats team. Ultimately the foul situation for their front court, and the talent of the Buckeyes, spelled doom for Northwestern who fell by a final of 69-59. DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 22 points, and was joined in double figures by Lenzelle Smith (12), Sam Thompson (11), and Amir Williams (10). Northwestern also saw four players break double figures tonight, including Tre Demps (16), Kale Abrahamson (13), Reggie Hearn (12), and Dave Sobolewski (10).
Northwestern was capable of dressing only 9 players for this game due to the large number of injuries they’ve sustained this season. Most recently was the loss of Jared Swopshire which was expected to hurt the Wildcat’s scoring. That was not evident in the first few minutes of the game as OSU struggled to play with energy, particularly on the interior. OSU eventually managed to counter by finding success with Lenzelle Smith shooting the ball, and running Trey McDonald on the interior to try to ignite some intensity. Williams did come back into the game and was able to make his presence felt towards the end, but it wasn’t enough with the Wildcats raining in the three pointers with ease.
Thad Matta came out of the half with a strategy to attack Northwestern’s young front court which seemed to work initially. Northwestern responded by eliminating the easy passing lanes and forcing bad turnovers when the Bucks did try to enter the paint. The Wildcats weren’t able to consistently capitalize due to the Buckeyes finally entering desperation mode on defense, which kept the game well within striking distance despite the poor offense. OSU was finally able to turn things around, but at such a late stage in the game that there was no way to avoid a tight battle. By the end, Bill Carmody began to have serious trouble with the foul situation in his front court leaving him with few experienced options in a critical junction of a tight ballgame.
There’s only one thing to take away from this game as a fan – this is further proof of just how tough the Big Ten is this year. Northwestern came into a hostile environment with very few scholarship players left and gave it to the Buckeyes for the better part of 40 minutes of play. Carmody is simply a fantastic basketball coach and his players give him everything they have on a regular basis.
The team can take a lot from this moving forward. There are plenty of places they need to work on, but they were able to dig deep and gut out a tough win. It’s a lot easier to learn from a tough win than an ugly loss.
1. The Buckeyes ended the two game losing streak and continued a 32 game home winning streak against the Wildcats stretching back to 1977. The Buckeyes have won 24 of the last 25 against the Wildcats.
2. Lenzelle Smith had one of his quality games today. It’s unusual for someone to outscore DeShaun Thomas, but through the first half Smith managed it. That was partly due to Thomas being forced to the bench with 2 fouls late in the half, but also due to his 2-8 shooting through the half.
3. Tank did eventually find his points in the game by attacking the paint and looking for high percentage shots against an unbalanced defense, or on the fast break. Team’s simply cannot keep him down forever – and he’s still batting 1000 on double digit scoring games this season.
1. Energy was lacking again. We haven’t really seen it in a while, but the Buckeyes came out of the gate like they did in the early season – low energy, slow defensive effort. That was paritcularly evident in the slow close-outs on the outside shooters – something the Bucks seem to suffer from on a regular basis.
2. The complete inability to adjust to Northwestern’s wing-screen. I’ll grant that the Wildcats were dropping an insane number of their three pointers, but OSU simply couldn’t figure out the proper way to evade that screen. Too frequently were the Cats able to free themselves up for a shot with the exact same strategy. This needs to be corrected before we play Wisconsin – they might be the most proficient school in the conference at running screens to free up shooters.
3. Poor decision making and turnovers. In four possessions of the second half, the Buckeyes turned it over three times. Two of those were players attempting to attack a far superior defensive front – typically one on three – and neither were players that are well known for their dribbling (Ravenel and Ross).
The Buckeyes next face the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison on Sunday, February 17th. You’ll be able to see that game on CBS at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.