The game started with Ohio State winning the tip and scoring the first four points. They looked strong, and it appeared that they might gain and keep control of the game. However, the Buckeyes quickly found themselves down 5-4, and the Wildcats began to exert their control on the game. Ohio State continued to generate good chances, but failed to convert them into points, while it seemed that Northwestern could hardly miss. This theme continued through the first ten minutes.
This beginning sounds exactly like all the other Ohio State games of late. Win or lose, the Buckeyes tend to lag behind at first while they feel out the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. As the first half continues the Buckeyes gradually show stronger until they either get within a couple of points or take the lead before the half. This game was no different.
The Buckeyes maintained their position in the game through the first half with a strong defense, forcing turnovers, enticing fouls, and causing shot clock violations. It was typical 2013 Buckeye Basketball. Craft was everywhere, causing confusion and lost balls on the part of Northwestern. Thomas was taking shots from everywhere, mostly missing, but also drawing the foul. Ross and Williams harassing the Wildcat offense while confusing their defense. With 4:34 remaining in the first half they took the lead, and after a short back-and-forth battle Ohio State had the better of play through the end of the first half. The score was tied 30-30 at halftime after an uncontested 3-point shot from the scorer’s table by Tre Demps of Northwestern drew nuthin’ but net.
The big story for Ohio State in the first half was Lenzelle Smith Jr who was on fire with 12 points. He was the primary reason for the Buckeyes’ being competitive on the scoreboard to this point. By contrast, Deshaun Thomas and Amir Williams were the closest scorers to him, and they each had 5 points. And while the analysts on the Big Ten network were trying to frame the drama of a potential Ohio State loss, the Buckeye fans already knew how this story was going to end – with a 15+ point win by the Buckeyes.
The second half started as expected with the Buckeyes scoring a quick 2, and then there was a flurry of 3-pointers being traded between the teams. Things began to settle down a bit as Northwestern settled into its offense – mostly reliant on 3-point shots–and Ohio State relied on blocks and steals to stay competitive. There were a few tense moments as the Wildcats built their lead to as high as 5 points, and they kept the lead for the majority of the second half.
As expected by most fans, with about 8 minutes left in the game, Ohio State took off and looked like an elite Big Ten team. Their defensive pressure became relentless, led by Aaron Craft, who simply hounded the Wildcat guards. Their offensive speed stepped up to a higher pace and their confidence began to shine. Once this switch kicked on, Northwestern had no answer. They just couldn’t keep up. The Buckeyes gradually eliminated the Wildcat lead. Thomas started lighting up the game with blocks and (finally) putting points on the board. Williams was relentless on the boards, winning the ball and getting it up the court. Shannon Scott brought some huge rebounds and a key block. Sam Thompson also was a major contributor with some major rebounds that were put back for points.
With 5:00 remaining in the game, Ohio State took the lead 55-54, and never looked back.
Though the Wildcats stayed tough, the Buckeyes ended the game receiving most of the breaks. While it wasn’t the 15+ point win that the fans expected, Ohio State pulled off the expected win by 10 points, and it was capped by a spectacular 360 slam by Sam Thompson.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but a win is a win. Ohio State has a lot of reviewing to do in preparation for their next game if they expect to get win #19 with their next game. It will be a tough one, playing the Badgers of Wisconsin on their own floor. Tip off is set for 1:00 ET Sunday, February 17. The game will be aired on CBS.
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