For the first time in what seems like a month, the Ohio State basketball team played like they are capable and showed their overall talent and depth in a 33 point blowout over Northwestern. The Wildcats kept it close for the first ten minutes and even took a brief one point lead. Once senior William Buford got hot though; the rout was on. It was harldy a one man show though, as Ohio State had ten players score and four in double figures.
The hype coming into the game was whether Ohio State would be able to slow down Northwestern’s high scoring duo of Drew Crawford and John Shurna, who entered the match averaging 18 and 19 points apiece. Those numbers were good enough to enter the game as the Big Ten’s top two leading scorers. Neither wound up being a factor, though, as they combined for 9 of 30 shooting from the floor for a combined 24 points. Most of those came at the end, too, after the game was well in hand. Buford, on the other hand, could do no wrong. He went 9-14 from the floor including 5-7 from behind the arc on his way to a career high 28 points. He also logged nine rebounds and dished four assists.
Everything that Northwestern tried on defense was reacted to and beat by the Ohio State scoring machine. If Northwestern tried to play zone then the Buckeyes would kick it out to the perimeter. Ohio State shot 50% (10-20) from behind the three point line, including 4-6 from sophomore guard Jordan Sibert who scored a career high twelve. When the Wildcats tried to play man, the Buckeyes let Jared Sullinger dominate the post as he recorded another double double to his career stat line, logging 17 points and 14 rebounds. He wasn’t the only one owning the glass either. Ohio State won the boards battle 48-28. Those are unheard of numbers, and doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats at the beginning of a physical Big Ten Conference schedule.
Coach Thad Matta has got to like what he saw tonight. Although the score doesn’t indicate it, Northwestern is a quality opponent and is expected to make a run at their first ever appearance in the Big Dance this spring. When your team physically dismantles an opponent and doesn’t let off of the gas; all signs point to having a really good team. Matta’s bench continues to impress as well, especially as he typically reigns in the playing time at this point in the season. If he can continue to get consistent, solid bench production throughout Big Ten play; the sky is the limit for this team. A fresh lineup with players like Sullinger, Buford, Thomas, Craft and four to five key contributors off the bench like Sibert will make for a very tough team to beat come tourney time. Tonight, Ohio State looked like a team with all of the makings for a deep run in the postseason.
Ohio State next plays undefeated Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday at 6 p.m.
ESPN2 will have the call.