Northwestern hasn’t won at Ohio State since the 1970’s.
Fortunately, there wasn’t a Jim Jackson, a Clark Kellogg, or a Greg Oden lined up across from the Wildcats today.
But what this
knockoff brand iteration of Ohio State basketball does have is a stable of long rangy athletes who can keep any team in the country away from the rack. They can also fill a whole heckuva lot of passing lanes.
Ohio State launched an 8-0 run starting at the 10:00 mark of the second half to cut the lead to one before eventually squeaking out in front. Northwestern fought, and Scottie Lindsey knotted the game at 56, but Ohio State had just enough when it counted to pull out the victory.
Once Ohio State brought out the full court pressure, Northwestern crumbled. A -9 margin in turnovers is hard for a team that is athletically mismatched to overcome. Here are some thoughts:
Northwestern had a great gameplan.
Against a team that is way longer and way more athletic than you, you need to lmit transition opportunities and hit your outside shots. Coach Collins and company did a great job of finding looks for Tre Demps, Aaron Falzon, Bryant McIntosh, and even Scottie Lindsey. Is their red hot 12-27 mark from three indicative of how we should expect Northwestern to play game-in-game-out? No, probably not. They’ve shown that they’re an average three point shooting team at best. But Northwestern wasn’t going to win this game by pounding it down low.
Northwestern rebounded super well too. That might not be a gameplan thing, but it was a major key. When Northwestern was struggling to score, they would get second opportunities. Alex Olah had his struggles (more on that later), but his 8 rebounds were huge. Gavin Skelly, playing in front of his hometown fans, couldn’t be kept off the glass either, notching 7 rebounds. Northwestern did those things really well. Which is all well and good but…
Turnovers are a huge problem
You can dictate tempo by playing solid defense, running your sets, and owning the glass. That goes out the window when you start turning the ball over.
Northwestern’s continued struggle with full-court pressure reared its ugly head in Columbus. The Wildcats finished with 14 turnovers. You can’t have that. Olah had his fair share. Demps had his fair share. The fact that it was the seniors who were giving the ball up makes it hurt all that much more.
Northwestern only has one true point guard on the roster. Demps is still an off-ball guard. If you put Northwestern under pressure, they have no outlet. And it gets them into deep trouble. It’s always frustrating to give games up because you take empty possessions.
The NIT is looking more and more dicey
The NIT has the same selection criteria as the NCAA Tournament. Being a 20 win team from the Big Ten has no sway.
Northwestern’s resume is not good.
There is only one good win, Wisconsin, who are climbing off the bubble, at home. Ohio State wouldn’t have been an incredible win, but it would’ve been a pretty good one. With this game gone, Northwestern has two chances to get a second quality win, both on the road, against Purdue (who just beat Michigan State) and Michigan, who can torpedo Northwestern’s zone defense.
Right now, you can’t help but feel that Northwestern is going to look back at the last 10 minutes of this game come selection day and regret what might have been.