Northwestern ran into a buzz saw tonight in Columbus, as Ohio State hit their first 7 field goals, opened up a big lead early, and were never threatened on their way to an easy 20 point victory. The Buckeye lead was 40-17 at halftime, as Northwestern shot an awful 4 for 22 from the field in the first half. In the second half, the 'Cats finally started clicking on offense, led by John Shurna's 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting, but the damage was already done and Northwestern still had no one to guard Evan Turner. Turner had another monster game with 20 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists, as he had his way with the 'Cats defense and pretty much did whatever he wanted. Jon Diebler added 17 and Dallas Lauderdale made all 6 of his field goals (5 dunks and a flip shot a foot away from the basket) and finished with 14 points.
Carmody switched up his defenses in the first half between match-up zone and 1-3-1, but there wasn't much he could have done short of petitioning the NCAA to allow his players to use 2-by-4's on defense. Luka Mirkovic sitting out almost the entire first half with foul trouble certainly didn't help matters, as Kyle Rowley and Ivan Peljusic brought nothing to the table on defense. Rowley continues to be unable to finish inside, and worse he keeps bringing the ball down to waist level when he catches it underneath, allowing opposing guards to sneak in and strip him. He really really could have used a redshirt year to learn the fundamentals, too late now though.
On offense, John Shurna had a good game but didn't get much help. Drew Crawford had 11 points but shot just 3 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from the line. Michael Thompson struggled with his shot, hitting 2 of 10 from the field and taking a couple of uncharacteristic forced shots. Jeremy Nash reverted to his old ways by missing the basket by about 4 feet on his only 3-point attempt. 14 NU turnovers were also costly.
Normally I'm upset after all Northwestern losses, but I'm not really too bothered by tonight's game. I expected Ohio State to win pretty easily, not by 20 but certainly by double digits. The Buckeyes may be barely in the top 25 in the polls, but that's misleading due to the losses sustained without Turner. Right now that's easily a top 10 team, and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't lose at home all season. The 'Cats at least showed a little bit of pride in the second half to keep from getting completely embarrassed. So this is far from a damaging loss, yeah it's annoying that they came out flat but let's face it, they probably weren't winning anyways.
However, with this loss Northwestern's next game against Illinois becomes just about a must win. The two games after that are trips to Minnesota and Michigan State, where no one has won all season, and a 2-7 start to conference play would all but eliminate the 'Cats at-large chances. A 3-6 start leaves very little margin for error, but 7-2 is attainable against the much softer second half of the schedule. At home, Northwestern might even be favored on Saturday for the first time in Big Ten play. I'll have a ton of coverage of that game this week, for now let's just pretend tonight never happened, and be thankful Ohio State won't be making a return trip to Evanston.