First Thoughts From Ohio State's 69-59 Win Over Northwestern
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — You know how when you're watching a television show and the lead character is in life or death danger, but you know he's not going to die because you just read that he signed on for three more seasons? That was the game tonight, and it was even a rerun.
How can a game that is in doubt for 38 minutes not really be in any doubt at all? Because it's Northwestern at Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven't lost at home to the Wildcats since 1977. The only internet they had back then was party lines and bathroom walls.
That's not to say that the Buckeyes weren't outplayed for most of this game, because they certainly were. Northwestern hit three pointer after three pointer and the Ohio State defense was basically powerless.
But eventually, as is generally the case when Northwestern is on the road, their opponent's athleticism takes over and the Wildcats are forced to try and hold on. That's exactly how this game played out, and you saw the result.
Northwestern was undermanned, but not when it came to effort. But it's still another checkmark in the loss column, which it was always going to be.
Hostile Takeover. A frustrated Deshaun Thomas threw down a monster two-hand dunk to bring Ohio State to within three points of Northwestern with 8:51 to play in the game.
It fired up the Buckeyes, but more importantly it fired up Thomas. That basket was the start of a tear that saw him outscore Northwestern 15-11 over the final nine minutes of the game. He was aggressive, but smart. He was forceful without forcing bad shots. Northwestern had no answer for him.
In a game filled with frustrations, when his team needed him to take over Thomas did what All-Americans do, and it was emphatic.
Who Gets the Credit? Amir Williams played well in this game. He was strong and aggressive. It led to a career-high 10 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds. It was perhaps the most productive game of his career.
It was also not unexpected. This was Northwestern, after all.
However, knowing that Williams was capable of a game like this only shows that everybody believes that he has more to give. The glimpses we see tell us there is more there, but everything else we are subjected to makes us wonder if those glimpses will ever become the norm.
While his production wasn't a surprise, that doesn't mean it shouldn't serve as a confidence booster.
Coaxing Effort. If Thad Matta wants Amir Williams to play harder, then he should continue to give valuable minutes to Trey McDonald.
After all, if Williams played with the same bullish effort as McDonald, then I don't think anybody would have a problem with him. Even if he struggled to catch passes from time to time, people would forgive him. Perry Carter was beloved in Columbus, and his hands weren't exactly soft.
I actually like what McDonald brings to the Buckeyes. He's strong, he's athletic, he can finish if you need him to be. The more minutes he sees, the more time Amir Williams will see what Thad Matta wants out of his center simply in terms of effort.
Though I do think it needs to be said that Williams has done a much better job over the last couple of weeks in terms of converting baskets and eliminating empty possessions.
Free Advice to the B1G. Play a zone defense against the Buckeyes, and then get ready for some long rebounds. You're welcome.
Putting Two Halves Together. Lenzelle Smith scored 12 points in this game on 4-8 shooting. He scored all of his points in the first half, and only took two shots in the second half. This game was a great example of why Smith can't be counted on as the sole number-two scorer.
A team's second guy can't go scoreless in a half, and he can never disappear. He still added six rebounds, which is nice, but being a guy who can both shoot from the perimeter as well as drive, I expected him to do more against Northwestern's zone defense.
Thad Matta loves Smith, but there are times when he seems to have trouble fitting into the offense. When the Buckeyes are facing a zone, however, I would tend to think that that's when he would fit Matta's needs best. But we didn't really see that much in the second half.
Quick Thoughts. You would have thought that LaQuinton Ross would have fit right into this game, but he just didn't seem like he was mentally in attendance. It was a bit disappointing considering what most of us were expecting from him in this game. ... I liked the look with Sam Thompson at the four when Deshaun Thomas was on the bench, and also when the Buckeyes went small to close out the game. Obviously, that's not something we will see much of, but it is certainly intriguing. Thompson can finish better than most power forwards, but I wouldn't get used to seeing him there. ... Yes, Shannon Scott gets in trouble when he drives into the paint at times. It used to happen to Michael Conley as well. The only difference is that when Conley put up a layup or floater, and it bounced badly off of the rim, Greg Oden was there to slam it home. Scott has no such mechanism for making people forget his missed shots.