Coming off of a big win against a good Michigan State team on Sunday, the 16th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (21-7, 11-5 B1G) took on the lowly Wildcats from Northwestern (13-16, 4-12 B1G) last night. They were led in the first half by Lenzelle Smith Jr. who had 15 points at half time which was big for him; he did have one low point in that first half and that was when he missed a break-away dunk. It looked like he was trying his best Jon Diebler impression. Outside of ‘Zelle only one other Buckeye hit a field goal, and that concerned me heading into the second half. During the second half my concerns came to fruition, no one could hit a shot or buy a bucket to begin the second half. Then Northwestern went on their run that started with the lack of scoring and the lack of focus on defense. Deshaun Thomas continued his shooting woes last night, and it seems like fatigue is taking a toll on his body. Since he has had to carry the burden of the entire offense for a majority of the season it is understandable. The Buckeyes ended up winning by 10 63-53, thanks to ‘Zelle who finished the game with 24 points. What kept this game close was complacency, quite a few possessions the team would stand around the 3-pt line and pass the ball and not be aggressive. Another factor is missed free throws; the Buckeyes left 10 points at the free throw line which is inexcusable for a good team.
This game was a lot closer then I had hoped it would have been, but Ohio State doesn’t play very well at Welsh-Ryan Arena, as the announcers kept bringing up. I’m sure we all saw the past highlights with Jared Sullinger coming up big for us in the clutch. Hopefully the Buckeyes play a complete game the next time around, because the next game up is going to be a tough one.
The Buckeyes take on the #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3 B1G) on Tuesday March 5th (although their ranking may change because of the new rankings not coming out until Monday). I thought the last game in Columbus was going to be close but I was wrong as the Hoosiers embarrassed the Buckeyes on their own floor. Indiana has played very well since that game, except in their most recent loss to Minnesota (19-9, 7-8 B1G). The Hoosiers are lead by two players atop the Wooden Award watch list, in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Both proved that they could play in the last game when Zeller was able to get every single Buckeye big man in foul trouble. Oladipo who is the leader for this Indiana team had a career against the Buckeyes on February 10th. The Buckeyes also have to keep an eye on Christian Watford who is the Hoosiers X-Factor and has been all season; he hits the big shots game in and game out. This is going to be a tough game matchup wise because of these three players, and the Buckeyes are going to need to play a near perfect game if they want to win. Here are my keys to that victory:
Tenacious D: No not the band, the D stands for defense. Sorry I ran out of words that I could combine with Aaron Craft. Anyways the Buckeyes need to play great defense like they did against the Spartans to keep this game close. Indiana is the best offensive team in the country and the Buckeyes will need to get nasty on defense to not allow the Hoosiers to get into a rhythm. Play it smart though the Bucks cannot afford to have Amir in foul trouble or any of the other big men.
Be Aggressive: In the game against MSU the Buckeyes were very aggressive at getting to the rim, especially Craft who made Keith Appling, and Gary Harris his ladies in waiting. The Buckeyes need to be aggressive again and not settle into half court offense all the time because that slows the game down and will allow Indiana to set up defensively. The Ohio State offense hasn’t been good this year when they sit back and wait for a good shot. So take it to the hole and make the Hoosiers your medieval puppy dog bitches (sorry I watched Ready To Rumble last night.)
Accept the Charity: When you get sent to the Charity Stripe (Free throw line) make your shots! I know they aren’t going to make 100% of them but you CAN NOT leave 10 points there like you did in the Northwestern game.
Let the Raven-el fly!: The X-factor of this game could be Evan Ravenel, he played very well against MSU and even though it looked like he was in Coach Thad Matta’s dog house on Thursday night he needs to play more minutes. His offense is very limited but that doesn’t mean he can’t get a couple of easy buckets and get back on track.
The Buckeyes are going to need everyone to play at their best if they want to knock out goliath; Indiana is projected by many to win the National Championship this year. If the team shows up and plays tough I think we can steal this game in Bloomington, but it’s going to be tough. This one is hard to predict I want to say Ohio State in my heart but my head is telling me differently. Buckeyes win in a close one by 3, as a late birthday gift to your’s truly.
Remember Muck Fichigan!