Jan 29, 2011, 11:02 PM EDT
There’s a reason Ohio State’s ranked No. 1 and has yet to lose this season. Several, actually.
The Buckeyes (22-0) can hit shots from inside, outside or down low, don’t commit turnovers, hit the glass and don’t get into foul trouble, which allows coach Thad Matta to play his best six players extensively and not fret about who’s hot coming off the bench.
Yet, as Northwestern showed Saturday, even when the Buckeyes are hitting their shots and have their best players on the court, they’re still vulnerable.
You just have to slow them down.
Ohio State escaped with a 58-57 win against a Wildcats team that didn’t have leading scorer John Shurna due to a sprained ankle concussion. Yet Northwestern didn’t panic. In fact, it was downright deliberate. The 49-possession game was the second-slowest major conference game of the season, trailing only Notre Dame’s win at No. 2 Pitt on Monday.
The Wildcats slowed it down, hit the offensive glass (grabbing nearly half their misses) and weren’t afraid to shoot 3s (9 of 30). It almost worked. Maybe if Ohio State had gone cold (it shot 57 percent from the field), it might’ve marked Northwestern’s first-ever win against a No. 1 team.
“They’re going to get backdoor layups. They’re going to hit some 3s,” Matta said “But it’s in between of trying to wear them down a little bit. And fortunately we did that.”
Eventually the Buckeyes will lose. Here’s how.
Don’t allow them to get comfortable and hoist shots. Frustrate them by soaking the clock. Otherwise you end up road kill like Purdue. Every close Big Ten game thus far for Ohio State has been a creeper. A 73-68 win against Illinois? 65 possessions. Same goes for a three-point win vs. Penn State (57 possessions), a four-point win at Michigan (56 possessions) and a three-point win vs. Minnesota (65 possessions).
As noted, Matta doesn’t rely on a deep bench, so the Buckeyes are comfortable with a slow game. They average 66 possessions per game on the season, but are down to 63.5 during Big Ten play, slightly above the league average. The team that slows them down even more, hits their shots and keeps Ohio State off the boards wins. (For good measure, that team should hope Jared Sullinger gets the flu and that Jon Diebler turns in another 1-for-4 game. But that may be asking a bit much.)
And that’s Wisconsin.
The Big Ten’s slowest team (56.3 possessions per game) is also its most efficient on offense and has plenty of shooters, notably Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. Also, the Badgers are nearly unbeatable at home, winning 93 percent of their home games. (They’re not nearly as good on the road, evidenced by a loss at Penn State.)
So circle that Feb. 12 home game against Ohio State. It looms as the biggest obstacle to Ohio State’s unbeaten regular season.
And the Buckeyes’ chance at a little history.
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
Apr 24, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT
He will be attending law school.
Apr 24, 2015, 8:51 PM EDT
Kaleb Tarczewski decided to return to Arizona earlier in the day.
Apr 24, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
The fifth banner is now hanging in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Apr 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
DePaul lost a junior guard and a three-star forward (for the second time) on Friday evening.
Apr 24, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
He’ll be able to play immediately.
Apr 24, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT
The second team All-MAC guard will have two years of eligibility left.
Apr 24, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT
Walker’s career didn’t pan out the way anyone expected, but he’s headed to the pro game after two seasons.
Apr 24, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Who’s going pro? Who’s returning to school? Who are we still waiting to hear from?
Apr 24, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT
A roster that will be both young and talented returns its leader as Dunn will be back for another season.
Apr 24, 2015, 1:14 PM EDT
It was reported earlier this week that Newman would be headed to Starkville, and he made it official Friday afternoon.
Apr 24, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT
The return of “Zeus” means that Arizona will have one returning starter from last year’s 34-4 team.
Apr 24, 2015, 12:16 PM EDT
The return of Buddy Hield pushes previously unranked Oklahoma into our way too early rankings.
Apr 24, 2015, 11:34 AM EDT
The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year has some unfinished business to attend to next season.
Apr 24, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Poythress played in eight games before suffering a torn ACL in practice.
Apr 24, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Sterling Smith averaged 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game at Coppin State last season.
Apr 23, 2015, 9:22 PM EDT
Long averaged a double-double for the third consecutive season in 2014-15. He’ll hang around to make a run at a fourth.
Apr 23, 2015, 8:01 PM EDT
Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring last season while also averaging 6.5 rebounds per contest.
Apr 23, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT
Minnesota had a need for added depth on the wing, and the addition of Ahmad Gilbert helps in that regard.
Apr 23, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
A second team All-Summit League selection last season, Billbury will be eligible immediately for VCU.
Apr 23, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT
Wallace led the Golden Bears in points, rebounds and assists last season.
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