On Sunday afternoon, the Northwestern Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes clashed in the day’s lone Big Ten battle. While Northwestern entered the matchup looking to continue its journey to the top of the conference standings, Ohio State was in pursuit of its third Big Ten win this season.
The Wildcats kicked off the match with a quick bucket from beyond the arc, but would end up trailing the Buckeyes for the majority of the first. Northwestern eventually took over the lead in the closing minutes, entering the half up, 36-31.
As the second period unfolded, neither team managed to find much breathing room. The biggest deficit was just 7 points with 47 seconds remaining in the game. However, it was Northwestern that prevailed, defeating Ohio State, 74-72.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
Northwestern’s Guards Can Step Up
In Northwestern’s narrow win, two of the team’s biggest performances came from guards, Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey. The two juniors combined for over half the team’s point total. Lindsey put on a 21-point, 2-rebound showing, while McIntosh added 17 points, 3 rebounds and a single assist.
Lindsey is currently the Big Ten’s seventh best scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game. McIntosh, on the other hand, is averaging 12.3 points per game behind his 90 percent free throw percentage. In the world of college basketball, solid guard play is crucial for success. Luckily for Northwestern, it holds two very talented guards that are both capable of propelling the team to victories.
Trevor Thompson Continues To Play A Big Role For Ohio State
Although Ohio State failed to pick up a big-time win over Northwestern, Trevor Thompson continued to exhibit his importance to the team. The 7-foot big man’s talent was on full display Sunday, as he posted 11 points and 15 boards. Despite the loss, this was no unusual showing for the redshirt-junior. Thompson has made sizable contributions all season, returning to Ohio State after originally declaring for the NBA draft in 2016. Thompson’s 9 rebounds per game has helped establish himself as one of the top rebounders in the Big Ten this year. He is also averaging just over 10 points per game, putting himself in line to average a double-double on the season.
Thompson is a player that Ohio State can look to build around. Even though this was a tough loss for the Buckeyes, don’t be surprised if they are able to upset a few more teams this season.
Northwestern’s Defense Struggled
The Wildcats have arguably been one of the Big Ten’s premier defensive teams this season. Northwestern is currently ranked first in the Big Ten for field goal percentage defense, and is second in defending the 3-point shot. The Wildcats are also second in the conference for blocked shots, fueled by forward Gavin Skelly’s 1.8 blocks per game off the bench.
While Northwestern has certainly displayed its defensive abilities in the past, the Wildcats struggled a bit on Sunday. Northwestern allowed Ohio State to stay in the match with its 46 percent field goal percentage, connecting on 8 of their 22 shots from beyond the arc. In comparison, Northwestern shot 38 percent from the field, and 29 percent from the perimeter. Although shots weren’t as contested, Northwestern managed to insert another victory to its now, 4-game win streak. Anticipate Northwestern to fix these defensive mistakes against Nebraska.
Ohio State will put this loss behind them and set its sights on Minnesota, while Northwestern hopes to pick up its fifth consecutive win against Nebraska. Northwestern has an opportunity to sit on top of the conference, if they can continue to win. Ohio State isn’t one of the top teams in the Big Ten this season, but has potential moving forward.