Buckeyes host Wildcats in Big Ten action
Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – Two teams at opposite ends of the Big Ten
Conference standings meet in Columbus tonight, as the Northwestern Wildcats
come calling on the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Northwestern started the season a solid 10-3, but losses in all four of its
league bouts thus far has the squad just three games over .500 at the moment.
The Wildcats bring up the rear in the Big Ten at 0-4, and they have dropped
three of the four games by double figures. The lone exception during that
span was last Saturday’s 56-50 setback to No. 3 Wisconsin.
As for Ohio State, it is 2-1 in Big Ten play and 14-3 overall. Thad Matta’s
Buckeyes stepped out of conference last weekend to entertain SEC foe
Tennessee in a game that lived up to the hype as OSU prevailed in a nailbiter,
68-66. It was the Buckeyes’ first win over a ranked opponent this season after
dropping bouts to North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin, and the win improved
the club to 27-0 in non-league home games under Matta. Ohio State is a perfect
11-0 at home this season while Northwestern is 0-3 in true road tilts.
Ohio State owns a commanding 107-44 lead in the all-time series with
Northwestern, and the Wildcats haven’t topped the Buckeyes since 1998. OSU
is the only Big Ten team NU head coach Bill Carmody has yet to beat.
Defense is traditionally the name of the game in Evanston, and the Wildcats
have proven themselves more than worthy this season. Northwestern’s foes are
scoring just 56.5 ppg on 42.6 percent shooting from the field, and the ‘Cats
own a winning record despite being outrebounded by 7.7 rpg. Offensively, NU is
hitting 44.8 percent of its total shots and putting up just 58.8 ppg. The team
boasts three double-digit scorers, but Kevin Coble’s club-best 12.1 ppg
demonstrates a lack of big-time offensive production. Craig Moore and Tim Doyle
check in with 10.2 and 10.1 ppg, respectively, with Doyle also serving as the
team’s primary playmaker with 95 assists in 17 games.
The ‘Cats gave visiting Wisconsin all it could handle over the weekend, as
the Badgers made good on just 2-of-12 three-point tries, suffered 15 turnovers
and allowed the home team to actually hit more field goals in the contest
(20-17). Jeff Ryan led the NU attack with 18 points and Doyle added 11 points
and eight assists.
Freshman sensation Greg Oden had arguably his best game of the season in Ohio
State’s recent win over Tennessee, as the 7-0 Indianapolis native scored 24
points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Oden, who hit 9-of-13 shots from the field,
also played a huge role defensively, coming up with three blocks and a steal in
addition to making the Volunteers think twice about coming into the lane
throughout the game. Fellow rookie Mike Conley Jr. poured in a career-high 16
points. Ohio State turned the ball over 20 times, but claimed an 18-5 edge in
points from the foul line as well as a dominating 46-30 rebounding advantage in
earning the narrow victory.
Despite missing the first seven games due to a wrist injury, Oden has been
nothing short of spectacular during his freshman campaign, hitting 61.1
percent of his field goal attempts in averaging 14.9 ppg. He also pulls down
9.8 rpg and has 39 blocks for an average of nearly four per game. Oden doesn’t
have to go it alone however, as the Buckeyes have three other double-digit
scorers, with Daequan Cook (14.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Ron Lewis (12.7 ppg, 3.7
rpg) and Ivan Harris (10.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg) all producing this season. Conley
Jr. is averaging 9.4 ppg and leads the team with 6.4 apg.