In a very long NCAA basketball season there will be games where a lot of luck is seemingly involved. Such was the case when the Buckeyes outlasted Northwestern. That was one of those games where the Buckeyes clearly had a target on their back and Northwestern was on a mission to try and prove that they could be more than who they are, at least for one game. The Buckeyes found a way to get it done winning 58-57. By comparison, yesterday’s 82-69 victory over Minnesota was a yawner, and probably a relief for the Buckeyes who never seemed to be operating on all cylinders.
The whole game felt pretty uneven in terms of pacing and sloppiness, but the second half was particularly bad. The referees in this Big Ten contest were pretty horrendous both ways. Offensive fouls where there shouldn’t have been any. Aaron Craft, particularly couldn’t seem to get a break. He fouled out on at least three foul calls that left most watching pretty perplexed. As I said, the refereeing was bad both ways. Not Butler vs. Cleveland State bad, but noticeable nonetheless.
Ultimately the Buckeyes came out on top. Dallas Lauderdale was a dunking machine. No dunk was more spectacular than his alley-oop inbounds play highlight coming off a screen underneath the hoop. Talk about a well-executed play. The ball was placed perfectly and Lauderdale slammed it down so hard I think there was a slight delay as they retrieved the ball from the tenth row. Lauderdale dunked his way to 10 points in the box score.
Dunks aside, the Buckeyes didn’t play a particularly good offensive game. They shot only 45% from the field, 40% from three and a frustrating 50% from the free throw line.
Jared Sullinger ends up with a decent line in the box score with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but I think a lot of those rebounds were his own misses underneath the hoop. Sullinger was 8-20 from the field, which isn’t typical for the freshman who was approaching a 60% field goal percentage prior to yesterday’s game. Sullinger also was only 2-8 from the free throw line.
Good news for the Buckeyes they ended up with a lot more chances thanks to 19 Minnesota turnovers. David Lighty led the Buckeyes with 19 points, William Buford put in 15, and Jon Diebler added 10. This game was reminiscent of bench production from a year ago as Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft contributed five points each. That was it for the bench.
I don’t mean to sound so negative. The Buckeyes went on the road in their division and took care of a 20th ranked team. There is no rule that every game has to be efficiently won and/or pretty. We all know that in a typical NCAA season you have to be good, have luck and even win some games when you aren’t playing particularly well.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Buckeyes as they will be on the road again this weekend on Saturday February 12 at Wisconsin. Wisconsin will play in Iowa on the 9th before the Buckeyes roll into town, but the real story for the Badgers is their plastering of Michigan State yesterday. Wisconsin crushed Michigan State by twenty-six 82-56. Jordan Taylor poured in 30 points for the Badgersand Jon Leuer added 20 more on the way to the Sparty pasting.
Let’s hope they cool off before this weekend.
(photo AP – Paul Battaglia)