Let’s all remember before we panic that Ohio State is a very good team. They are a legitimate contender for the national title. That said Northwestern’s effort in this game was poor. It starts on defense were Ohio State was able to get clean open looks and go on a big run in the first half. Northwestern tried a 2-3 zone at the start of the game which was ineffective. They went then to the 1-3-1 which was also ineffective. In both cases Ohio State was able to pass and cut with ease and inevitably would find a player with their feet set waiting anxiously to shoot a wide open three. Making matters worse for Northwestern in the rare case that the Ohio State player missed that shot it seemed that a Buckeye player was there for an offensive rebound.
Ohio State’s shooting aside, perhaps the bigger issue was that Northwestern just seemed to get out efforted. Now maybe that was the a case of being out athleted, but I still think the effort could have been better. A number of times in the case of those offensive rebounds the NU player didn’t even jump and the Buckeye player pulled in the rebound over them. Also, while you have to give credit to Ohio State for making their three point shots and creating the three point shots they made in the game. However, more often than not the Wildcat defender seemed to be late getting out on the shooter and late getting his hands up and getting off the ground. Basically, it looked like the Ohio State defender always had enough space to shoot comfortably. That wasn’t the case when Northwestern shot.
The other place where the game seemed to turn for Northwestern was shot selection and offensive patience. Last year NU challenged Ohio State because they played with patience and burned time off the clock. This year Drew Crawford decided he was Kobe Bryant but instead looked more like William Cullen Bryant. Crawford’s missed wild shots lead to several secondary breaks for the Buckeyes which resulted in threes and simply sped up the game which was big no-no. Then once the Wildcats were down the rest of the Wildcats started to try and mount a comeback by forcing equally quick and ill advised shots. I am shocked that Bill Carmody allowed Crawford and the Wildcats to what they did. It almost looked like the ‘Cats just decided to see what would happen if they tried to play Ohio State straight up. The answer, not surprisingly, was nothing good.
I’ll conclude simply with the fact that while I’ve never been a believer in the concept of the must win game outside of tournament play the fact is that Northwestern must win the next two games at home against Penn State and Illinois if they want to continue to have hope of playing in the postseason. To do so they’ll need to put together a better effort than what we saw today. Also, making more shots and playing something that looks like defense would help a lot too.