After Ohio State fell to Wisconsin in Madison on Thursday night, the Buckeyes will look to reverse their recent fortunes tonight. Last month Ohio State took care of Northwestern in Evanston, but since then not much else has gone right for the Buckeyes. Following the win on the road, which pushed Ohio State to 3-0 in Big Ten play, the Buckeyes have lost five of their last seven games.
The Ohio State bench can't be faulted for not holding their own lately. In Thursday's loss to the Badgers, the Ohio State bench accounted for 46 of the 68 points by the Buckeyes, including 27 of the 32 first half points. The production from the bench was a season-high, topping the previous best of 40 points, which Ohio State has hit a number of times this year. JaQuan Lyle showed signs of life after his recent struggles, scoring 18 points in the first half, and finishing with 27 points in the loss. Kam Williams gave the Buckeyes a strong second half, scoring all of his 10 points in the game after the halftime break. Lyle and Williams were the only Buckeyes to reach double figures in scoring against Wisconsin.
Ohio State will need increased production from their starters, something that has been severely lacking lately, if they want to sweep the regular season series against Northwestern. Over the past two games, Jae'Sean Tate's 16 points against Maryland was the only time a starter has reached double figures. In Thursday's game against Wisconsin, A.J. Harris and Daniel Giddens were shutout, scoring zero points in a combined 24 minutes on the floor.
Marc Loving has also been quiet over the past month. While the junior is still Ohio State's leading scoring with 13 points per game, that number continues to fall as Loving struggles to put points on the board. After scoring a career-high 27 points in the win over Illinois in early January, Loving hasn't scored over 12 points in the nine games since. The past six games have been especially tough for Loving from the field, as the junior has hit just 15 of the 58 shots he has attempted during that span.
Northwestern came into conference play with a 12-1 record and had designs on making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, but a 4-7 Big Ten record has put a dent into those hopes. The Wildcats are still 16-8 this year, but they likely will need a strong close to the regular season, as well as a few wins in the Big Ten Tournament, to earn that elusive tournament bid. Northwestern will need continued strong play from Bryant McIntosh, who is averaging 14.8 points per game. McIntosh just moved into seventh all-time in assists at Northwestern with 309 helpers.
Just a few days after the win against Illinois in the beginning of January, Ohio State hit the road to take on Northwestern, and left Evanston with a 65-56. The Buckeyes found themselves down by a point at halftime, but thanks to the hot shooting from Kam Williams, Ohio State was able to put a little bit of distance on the Wildcats in the second half. Williams was about the only Buckeye who was getting his shot to fall in the game, with the sophomore hitting five three-pointers on his way to 21 points. The rest of the Buckeyes were 0-9 from behind the arc in the victory. Trevor Thompson contributed some strong play inside, recording 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Much like Ohio State, Northwestern has struggled lately, with Thursday's 82-58 win over Minnesota snapping the Wildcats' four-game losing streak. All four of those losses during that span were to Top 25 teams, but Northwestern didn't play all that well, with three of the losses coming by double figures. The Wildcats hit 12 three-pointers against the Golden Gophers to end their slump, which was a season-high during Big Ten play for Northwestern. The only time the Wildcats have shot better from behind the arc this year was in non-conference play, when they hit 15 three-pointers on two other occasions.
Numbers to know
So far this season Ohio State has 662 defensive rebounds, which ranks 16th in the country. Keita Bates-Diop is leading Ohio State with 6.3 rebounds per game. Bates-Diop, Jae'Sean Tate, and Marc Loving have all eclipsed 100 defensive rebounds this year, with Bates-Diop's 113 defensive rebounds being a team-high. The Buckeyes will look to be more active on the defensive glass tonight after securing just 17 defensive rebounds in the loss to Wisconsin.
Ohio State has won the last 30 games against Northwestern in Columbus. The last time the Wildcats were able to earn a victory on the road against the Buckeyes was in February 1977, when Northwestern beat Ohio State 83-72. Overall the Buckeyes are 67-14 against Northwestern in Columbus. Thad Matta is 18-1 against Northwestern during his time at Ohio State, with eight of those wins coming in Columbus.
Even though Ohio State fell on Thursday night after Wisconsin hit 13 three-pointers, more often than not the Buckeyes have had success when their opponents have hit 10 or more three-pointers. Ohio State is 46-19 when their opponents have hit at least 10 three-pointers. When Buckeye opponents have hit at least 13 three-pointers Ohio State is 8-3. Maybe it would bode well for Ohio State if Northwestern can be as effective from the three-point line as they were against Minnesota on Thursday.
Cast of characters
Following a five-game stretch in which he scored a combined 20 points, JaQuan Lyle earned some much needed confidence with the 27 points he scored on Thursday against Wisconsin. The point total was Lyle's second-highest total of his freshman campaign, with the only game where he scored more coming in the loss to Indiana in which he scored 29 points. Lyle is second in the nation among freshman with 110 assists.
Bates-Diop will be hoping to have a little more success this time out against Northwestern than a month ago in Evanston, where he failed to score a point in 13 minutes. The sophomore has been inconsistent as of late, following up performances of 22 points against Penn State and 15 points against Illinois with games of eight points and Maryland and seven points of Wisconsin. Ohio State will need Bates-Diop's toughness on the boards, especially with some of the talent bigs Northwestern has.
The senior guard has had a couple of his best games of the season the last two times out, scoring a career-high 30 points in the loss to Iowa, followed by 23 points in the win against Minnesota. Demps was also distributing the basketball at a high rate against Minnesota, dishing out a team-high eight assists in the blowout win over the Golden Gophers. Demps doesn't come off the floor much, logging at least 30 minutes in all but four games.
It looked as if Northwestern might redshirt the freshman from Cleveland earlier in the year, as he didn't play in the first 12 games of the season. An injury to Alex Olah forced Padron into action and he's made the most of his opportunity. In the first meeting between the schools this year, Pardon had nine points and 14 rebounds. Olah has returned from injured, but Pardon is likely to start.
How to watch
Game time: 8:00 p.m ET
Radio: WBNS-FM 97.1
TV: Big Ten Network