The Buckeyes stayed on the road in Big Ten play taking on Northwestern in Evanston. Seeking to rebound from Saturday's loss in Iowa, Thad Matta tweaked his starting lineup for the first time this year, inserting Anthony Lee and Jae'Sean Tate in place of Amir Williams and Marc Loving.
Despite the lineup change, the Buckeyes struggled shooting the ball early and quickly fell behind to the Wildcats. The Ohio State offense finally started to click late in the first half, aided by a couple of three pointers from both D'Angelo Russell and Marc Loving, and The Buckeyes headed to the locker room with a 38-34 lead.
Ohio State extended their lead in the early second half, but never could quite put the Wildcats away. Northwestern was able to pull even with just over three minutes remaining, but a pair of deep threes by Russell, who finished with a career high 33 points, quickly put the Buckeyes back on top, although a spate of missed free throws and a turnover out of an inbounds play made the final seconds WAY more interesting than they needed to be.
Alex Olah lead Northwestern with 16 points and five rebounds, and Tre Demps added 14, including a miracle banked in three near the buzzer to close the margin to a single basket. Sam Thompson was the only other Buckeye in double figures, with 11. Anthony Lee added eight points on 4-4 shooting from the floor.
3 Things we learned:
1) The new starters probably aren't a permanent fix. It was easy to see that this Ohio State team was in desperate need of a spark and two changes in the starting lineup can definitely serve as a wake up call. But much like switching zone to man on defense, this is probably just a bandaid on a broken arm. This is a talented, but flawed basketball team with issues extend far beyond Amir Williams general apathy on the court. To their credit, both Lee and Tate performed respectably in the start with Lee contributing six first half points, but the Buckeyes still struggled with a sluggish start and found themselves in a early hole.
2) D'Angelo Russell is really good at basketball. Is this not obvious yet? The freshmen was clearly the best player on the court and the gap is widening. Russell could pretty much get whatever he wanted against Northwestern doing damage from both sides of the arc. When Russell isn't at his best, this Ohio State is going to really struggle. Enjoy him while he's here, because it's not going to be for long.
3) A road win is a road win. It's tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, even in Evanston where weird things seem to happen more often when they should. Every win counts for the Buckeyes as they continue to build their NCAA tournament profile. Northwestern isn't exactly the type of win to move this team off the bubble, but it's better than the alternative and hopefully will serve to build Ohio State's confidence moving forward.