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The Fastbreak: 3 thoughts on Ohio State’s disaster at Northwestern

While it’s only a Quad 2 loss, the Buckeyes showed they don’t have an answer on the floor when Kaleb Wesson isn’t there.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern Nuccio DiNuzzo-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the college football season ended, I have been sucked into the reality television show The Bachelor. And every week, I end up yelling at the TV while pacing around the living room. Doesn’t matter if I watch the show live, or a couple days after the fact — all hail the YouTube TV gods — I still end up asking the same question to myself: how have I allowed this two (or sometimes three) hour block of TV to consume so much real estate in my head?

After the display on Wednesday night, it’s safe to say that the Ohio State Buckeyes are also consuming way too much of my head space. It was another frustrating effort; and this time around, it was in a “must-win” game. Northwestern was on a 10-game losing streak, and would have been a very good résumé booster for a Buckeye squad that needs a victory or two to be securely in the NCAA Tournament. However, they got blown out by 18 points, and looked lost at times against the last place team in the Big Ten.

Just like Colton Underwood, who is this season’s bachelor, the Buckeyes are on a quest. They both are looking to fill a void — but for completely different reasons. Colton is looking for love; OSU is looking for some answers on both offense and defense with Kaleb Wesson suspended. And so far, both searches have been frustrating.

Now that I’ve vented about a reality TV show that’s consumed too much of my life since Clemson’s clobbering of Alabama, let’s take a look at a few thoughts/observations from the latest Buckeye basketball contest.

A system wide outage

Following the two games thus far of his suspension, we have more than a sufficient amount of data points in regards to the importance of Kaleb Wesson. When he plays, OSU has a decent chance to win games. When he does not play, OSU seems to fold. Since being suspended for a violation of athletic department policy last week, the younger Wesson brother has missed two games.

In both games, the Buckeyes have been outplayed — and even worse, looked like a team that’s lost in a fog.

After getting steamrolled by Purdue, which was a 35-point loss, Ohio State lost to the cellar dwellers of the conference. Granted, it was a road game against a NET Ranking top-100 opponent, but OSU looked bad. Especially in the first half.

Through the first 20 minutes of action, the Bucks shot an unimpressive 4-of-28 from the field. From three-point range, they were an abysmal 1-of-12. However, thanks to eight free throw makes, Ohio State was within 11 at halftime. If the Wildcats weren’t aggressive with the fouls, this thing could’ve been over at halftime.

In the second half, though, the team improved. The only problem was that Northwestern improved, too. Keyshawn Woods carried the team on the scoring front with 15 points. He also tallied seven rebounds, sharing the team-high with Justin Ahrens. If you were to ask me before the game who the top scorers and rebounders would be, I wouldn’t have said Woods or Ahrens. I probably would’ve taken Andre Wesson or C.J. Jackson for points, and Kyle Young on the rebounds.

Andre Wesson didn’t have a good game at all; he scored two points on 0-of-8 shooting. Jackson did better at nine points, but was the third leading scorer behind Woods and Duane Washington Jr. (11). Kyle Young was shaken up during the game, but still hauled in seven points and four boards.

This team misses Kaleb Wesson’s production on the floor. There’s no getting around it. Without him there, this team short circuits. Guys try to do too much, and are playing out of position — and end it getting roasted in the process. Northwestern was able to work the ball inside for some dunks, and dominated the paint to the tune of 36 points.

I think the initial knee-jerk reaction is to blame Kaleb for OSU’s shortcomings of late. Sure, breaking rules this late of the season is not good — especially when he was suspended last year for a game. However, Kaleb doesn’t play five positions; he plays one. This is a team issue, and I would even argue that it’s a strategy issue. If the game plan is “Kaleb or bust,” then you have a problem right out of the gate.

This team has a litany of problems — and they’ve ballooned since the calendar flipped to March. The star player (Kaleb) is out, there are multiple shooters who just can’t shoot, and guys who once could catch fire have now been extinguished. Ahrens, who was the catalyst for sending Iowa into oblivion, had just three points against NU; and Jaedon LeDee, who came alive against Purdue, didn’t even score on Wednesday.

Basketball is a team sport, so blame gets shared by everyone.

Pardon me

Northwestern’s best shooter is Dererk Pardon. That wasn’t the surprise. The surprise was that he dropped 20 points on the Buckeyes. Vic Law was seen as the main scorer for NU, but he only scored 10 on Ohio State.

When OSU began to close the gap in the second half — getting as close as five points — Pardon bailed out his team. He made a three-pointer en route to an 8-of-10 evening from the field. But the damage wasn’t done just in scoring. Pardon tallied 13 rebounds, with 10 of them coming in the second half.

When teams are on a slump, someone needs to step up. Pardon did just that on Wednesday, even though he was already one of the go-to guys. He entered Wednesday averaging nearly 14 points and eight rebounds a game, and he surpassed those totals.

There’s a lesson to be learned here for Ohio State. Someone is going to have to step up on Sunday if Kaleb is still sidelined. Ahrens did it against Iowa, and at times, Andre and C.J. have been the guy in crunch time.

The outlook

Depending who you asked in the beginning of the week, OSU was anywhere from a No. 8 seed to a No. 10 seed. Now, they are a team teetering on the edge of missing the Big Dance. Even though they have some decent wins (Creighton, Cincinnati), they have a bad loss (Illinois).

Minnesota has now moved in front of Ohio State in the conference standings thanks to a win against Purdue. Indiana is trending upwards after beating Michigan State over the weekend, and if they get wins over Illinois and Rutgers to end the season, then they have a real shot to cause havoc in the Big Ten Tournament.

Outside the conference, bubble team Seton Hall, scored a huge win over No. 16 Marquette. Clemson sits at 18 wins, and host Syracuse (a team that beat the Buckeyes) this weekend.

Those teams are trending upwards, while the Bucks are trending downwards.

A lot hinges on Sunday’s contest against Wisconsin. The Badgers are ranked, and OSU really needs that win on their résumé. If they lose that game, then they have to win a game (if not two) in the conference tournament. The road doesn’t get any easier for Holtmann’s squad, but this is where the chips have fallen.