Long term, we won’t remember the nuts and bolts of how a season went; we’ll look at the final record and maybe reminisce about the memorable games—if there were any.
In the short term, though, we remember how the games go. And buddy, the first 20 minutes of Wednesday’s Ohio State Buckeyes-Northwestern Wildcats matchup was about as bad as it got.
Both teams could not shoot, and ended the first half with a football score, 24-20.
Fortunately, things picked up in the second half. And by the time the final horn sounded, Ohio State had a comfortable victory, 63-49. In the books, this is a Quadrant III win for the Bucks—in other words: this win didn’t do much to help their NCAA Tournament stock, but it could’ve done damage if they lost.
A big game against Maryland is now on the schedule for Chris Holtmann’s squad. Before we ramp up the content machine for Bucks-Terps, here’s three thoughts from the win against Northwestern.
1) Inside Man
Working the ball inside was something Ohio State did well on Wednesday. A whopping 40 points were scored in the paint, equaling nearly 65 percent of the points they got against the Wildcats.
Kaleb Wesson led the team in points (22), but he wasn’t the only one finding success down low. Andre Wesson, Kyle Young, Justin Ahrens found up-close points against an NU defense that had no answer for the Buckeyes.
I like to believe the game plan worked because the Bucks had smart possessions, and didn’t squander the ball away on forced passes. Only eight turnovers were committed and 18 assists were tallied. Unlike the last game against Michigan State, OSU only had nine assists and turned the ball over 15 times.
Granted, Northwestern is at the bottom of the Big Ten, so getting this kind of production against the likes of Maryland, Iowa and Purdue may be hard to come by—especially if opposing teams start running zone defense against the Buckeyes. But, you take it when you can get it. The Bucks needed a win against NU, and they got it.
If Kaleb can stay out of foul trouble (he was only called twice in this latest game) than the inside battle for points may be successful. If he’s racking up fouls, then Chris Holtmann may have to find someone else who can make shots inside, or change the strategy up.
However, changing up strategy may be a lot easier said than done...
2. Live by three, die by three
If you were flipping the channels between Ohio State-Northwestern, Syracuse-Louisville, and Duke-North Carolina, one of these games was unlike the others.
At the first media timeout, the score was 3-2 in favor of the Wildcats. After five minutes of action both teams had a combined five points. It felt like the first team to 35 would win the game.
Fortunately, the game picked up in the second half.
A big reason for why both teams were riding the struggle bus was (shocker) poor shooting. But more specifically, shooting from three-point range. The Buckeyes shot 2-of-12 from downtown in the first half, and Northwestern was 2-of-11 from beyond the arc during the same stretch. For the game, Luther Muhammad missed both his shots from three range, and C.J. Jackson went 1-of-5. Even Kaleb Wesson struggled, going 1-of-4 from distance.
In total, OSU was 4-of-20 from three-point range. It didn’t hurt them too much against the Wildcats, but cranking shots from the parking lot is only good when the shots go in.
Inconsistency from the field will be the bugaboo for the Buckeyes down the stretch. If shots aren’t falling, especially from Kaleb Wesson, then the OSU offense is basically inoperable.
3) Scorer No. 2?
This game was a good test to figure out who would be scorer No. 2 for the Buckeyes behind Kaleb. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything that inspired confidence in a secondary scorer being found.
Roughly 35 percent of OSU’s points came from Kaleb, and no other member of the team crossed the 10-point mark. Duane Washington Jr. and Kyle Young tied for the second most points on Ohio State with eight. Closely followed behind them were Andre Wesson and Keyshawn Woods, who both ended the game with seven points.
At this juncture in the road, the best bet is for small point totals from a group of guys, instead of a solid output from one guy. If four or five players can chip in seven points, that, arguably, is better than one player getting 15 points and the rest of the team trailing off in the distance.
Earlier in the season I thought C.J. Jackson and Luther Muhammad would be the consistent secondary scorers behind Kaleb. However, Jackson scored only five points in this outing, and his low-scoring output may have been contributed to the injury he sustained at Michigan State. Muhammad was held to two points, and didn’t make any of his four shots.