Heading to Northwestern seemed like a cakewalk for the Bucks as the Wildcats have suffered two awful losses already to the Illini and Wisconsin. And they would be sans their best player in John Shurna.
But it didn’t end that way. NU took the lead on more than one occasion late in the first half, and trailed by just two at intermission. Perhaps most stunning was the fact NU had +6 rebounding margin for the first 20 minutes.
Apparently, Thad Matta’s halftime speech wasn’t enough to get his team to pull away though, as Ohio St. fell behind again during the closing minutes of the second half. NU had a couple chances to win it in the final minute, but came up just short. Drew Crawford’s half court buzzer beater was wide left as time expired, and the Buckeyes won 58-57.
By Paul M. Banks
Behind the heady play of freshman point guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes were able to find some offensive rhythm. Craft was like a surgeon, (“Like a surgeon, hey Cuttin’ for the very first time Like a surgeon Here’s a waiver for you to sign”) carving through the NU defense to better involve star seniors Will Buford and David Lighty, who seemed to wake up from their first half sleepwalk during the second half.
“I shouldn’t say it was too much to overcome because we did, but give them credit for winning all these close games because that’s what really good teams do,” NU Head Coach Bill Carmody said.
It was by far the most impressive effort put forth by the Wildcats in 2010-11 and certainly gives their fan base some genuine reason for optimism. Because they did it without their leading scorer in Shurna. His return is still unknown at this time.
“I guess it’s a day to day kind of thing,” Carmody said.
All in all, superstar freshman center Jared Sullinger was not as overtly dominant as would have been expected given NU’s weakness inside. He was the game’s leading scorer and rebounder, with a 21-8, but he didn’t overpower the game as much as some expected.
“I felt like we had built a pretty good lead by keeping our composure, I thought we were doing a decent job defensively. Offensively, we weren’t getting a ton of possessions, but wee were over a point per possession, so we were pretty happy with that,” OSU Coach Thad Matta said.
“It was more a matter of buckling down. I told my guys when you play Northwestern, they’re going to get lay-ups, they’re going to get back doors, and hit some threes, but it’s the in-between of wearing ‘em down a little bit and fortunately we hopefully did that,” he continued.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank