Ohio State (16-8, 7-4) travels to Northwestern (7-14, 0-10) on Wednesday night (9pm ET, BTN). The Buckeyes will try and turn things around after a disappointing 59-53 loss to Indiana at home last Sunday.
Northwestern has lost three straight games, and 10 of their last 12. The Wildcats have really struggled the entire year. A four game win streak in December was the only positive stretch of the season for the Wildcats.
Northwestern lost their last game 70-55 at Michigan State. They were in the game at the ten minute mark of the 2nd half, trailing the Spartans 51-48. Kevin Coble had an open look from behind the arc that didn't drop. Drew Neitzel responded with a three for the Spartans and the rout was on.
Ohio State came out flat against Indiana on Sunday and trailed at the half 29-21. The halftime deficit and the dominance by DJ White in the paint were too much for the Buckeyes to overcome.
White had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hoosiers. Going into the tunnel at half it is reported that White told one of his teammates, “I can’t believe they are trying to guard me with little kids.”
If Ohio State has any dreams of dancing in March they need to take care of Northwestern; a loss would ruin their slim chances to make the NCAA tournament. Ohio State has won 16 straight over Northwestern, including seven straight in Evanston.
At this point in the season Thad Matta is accustomed to his teams getting better, but it seems like that is the last thing this group is doing. If anything, Ohio State looks tired and flat when they take the floor. Alarms should be going off if a team can’t get excited to play a Sunday afternoon game against Indiana on national TV.
Thad Matta is stuck on 199 wins for his career, and has never failed to win at least 20 games in a season. This feat is in serious jeopardy with games left against Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, and Purdue.
Time is running out for this group if they want to make an impact in March. Matta has typically turned to experience when faced with adversity in the past.
Othello Hunter needs to start dominating games in the paint. A good lesson for him would be to sit him down and make him watch every game DJ White has played this year.
Matt Terwilligher has to give Ohio State more off the bench. By coming in and taking three pointers, he is no help to the team. He must get to the boards and start throwing his body around, making full use of all five fouls.
Jamar Butler is the most important player on the Buckeyes. He has put this team on his back almost the entire year.
Is Jamar wearing down? Does he need a rest?
Those are answers the coaching staff needs to address.
Regardless, Butler needs to start leading by example. He has scored 11, 10, and four points in the last three games on 10-34 shooting. In the Indiana game, he was 2-8 from the field and seemed intent on getting the ball into Diebler’s hands instead of looking to shoot himself.
If the Buckeyes continue to depend on freshman and sophomores then this team is bound for the NIT. While many critics blame the Buckeye’s inconsistency on the youth and inexperience, maybe it’s time for the three seniors to look in the mirror and evaluate their consistency.
If Butler, Hunter, and Terwilligher don’t step up, then this team will be sorry on Selection Sunday.