The Matchup: Ohio State (17-6) @ Northwestern (13-10)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: Big Ten Network (8:00 PM CT Wednesday)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: Northwestern last defeated Ohio State in the 1997-98 season. In that contest, Napoleon Harris scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.
About the Game
Ohio State comes into this contest on the heels of a 55-50 loss to Wisconsin which ended the Buckeyes four game winning streak. Despite that loss, Ohio State is a team that is probably at this point in the NCAA tournament. Now, they need to start winning again to improve their seed. The Wildcats have lost three in a row since beating Wisconsin. They likely need three wins in their last six games to ensure an NIT bid. To get to that total, this win is essential.
Ohio State has two big advantages in this game. The first is Evan Turner. After Northwestern couldn’t stop Michigan’s Manny Harris, it is hard to believe they can stop Turner who in my opinion is a better version of Harris. Turner stands 6-7 and averages 17.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 3.3 apg. He will be a very difficult matchup for any defense the Wildcats choose to play. If they play 1-3-1, Turner will try to penetrate the zone. In a 2-3, if will be critical NU gets a player who can matchup with Turner on the court. Who is that player, probably Jeff Ryan, who played the best defense of anyone against Harris in his brief appearance on the court Sunday afternoon.
Ohio State’s other big advantage is in the front court where athletic 6-8 forward Dallas Lauderdale and 7-0 center B.J. Mullens offer a tough challenge for whoever the Wildcats play at center. Mullens leads the Big Ten with a shooting percentage of 63.6%, of course, most his shots are dunks. As a team the Buckeyes shoot 36.3% from three and 48.1% overall. That overall percentage is the highest in the league. In terms of shooting threes, John Diebler and William Buford have the ability to knock down the three and NU must get out on them.
Northwestern’s hopes in this game rest primarily on the fact Ohio State will play a zone defense which gives Craig Moore shots. Given Moore’s recent struggles to get open, if he gets clear looks I expect him to take advantage. However, the Wildcats will need to play way above expectations on defense and on the glass to pull off the upset. Before this three game home stand started, I thought this was NU’s toughest matchup. Now, it is their last chance at a victory. Sadly, I don’t expect them to pull it off. Ohio State, 70 Northwestern, 55