The Ohio State Buckeyes continue to surpass expectations and prove doubters wrong as they obtained their seventh win in a row with an impressive 65-56 victory at Northwestern Wednesday night. The defense for the young Buckeyes was superb, as they held the Wildcats to a lowly .240 from behind the arc. Offensively, Ohio State was led off the bench by sophomore guard Kam Williams' 21 points. Marc Loving chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Trevor Thompson notched a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. With the impressive road win, there were a few observations that stood out.
Let's take a look at the key focal points of the game.
What We Learned:
1. Kam Williams capitalized on his minutes with Keita Bates-Diop in foul trouble.
With the emergence of sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop, the thought of him getting into early foul trouble on the road would have been unfathomable as the Buckeyes looked to extend their winning streak to seven games. In the early stages of the first half, sophomore guard Kam Williams stepped in and not only performed well enough to fill in for Bates-Diop, but perhaps cemented himself amongst the top sixth men in the Big Ten.
Williams entered Wednesday's game averaging 6.5 points per game, with his highest scoring output coming in the second game of the season against Grambling State when he poured in 22. On a neutral court against Kentucky last month, the sophomore put up a solid nine points on 3-for-6 shooting. After tallying 12 points against South Carolina State and 10 against Illinois last Sunday, yesterday's performance of 21 points - just two points shy of his career high - allowed the Ohio State Buckeyes to get the better hand of Northwestern once again and 3-0 in Big Ten play.
2. Team play prevails on the road.
The turning point of the Buckeyes this season should partially fall on the shoulders of freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle. Lyle's aggressiveness on the offensive end in the early non-conference games got Ohio State into trouble at times, as the offensive became stagnant and one dimensional. Since the beginning of the seven game winning streak, Lyle started trusting his teammates more and created opportunities for others to score.
During the streak, Lyle is averaging 5.14 assists per game to go along with nine points per game. Led by Lyle's seven assists, the Buckeyes did a great job at making the extra pass against Northwestern. The young Buckeyes epitomized unselfish basketball by having 18 assists on 25 made field goals.
3. The Buckyes not only used their length to block shots, but for getting in passing lanes and mitigating Northwestern's three-point success rate.
With sophomore center Trevor Thompson and freshman Daniel Giddens, it's obvious to state that the Buckeyes are one of the best rim protecting teams not only in the conference, but in the country as well. As of January 6th, the Buckeyes checked in at No. 8 in the country in blocks - Ohio State blocks an average of 6.2 per game. With Northwestern center Alex Olah sidelined, the Buckeyes were expected to man the paint and rack up a plethora of blocks and rebounds.
The Wildcats matched the Buckeyes with 44 rebounds, and trumped the visitors in blocked shots - Northwestern had seven blocks compared to Ohio State's six. The Buckeyes found their path to victory was aided by generating seven steals - Lyle and Williams led the way with two apiece -- and using their length to close out on Northwestern's three-point shooters. Lyle, Marc Loving and Bates-Diop did a tremendous job at making life behind the arc tough for Northwestern, as the Wildcats only connected on 6-for-25 from the perimeter.
This was a very impressive win for the young Buckeyes, as they are building a solid philosophy of team basketball and moving up the Big Ten standings. There is still a long road ahead to proving just how formidable they can be in the conference - three of the next four games are on the road. Lyle's continued development will be critical if Ohio State hopes to participate in the big dance, but at this pace, good results are on the horizon for Thad Matta and the Buckeyes.