Northwestern fell to Ohio State on Wednesday night 65-56, giving the Wildcats their second-straight loss. It was also the second time all season (the first came in the previous game against Maryland) that Northwestern failed to eclipse 60 points. Here's how we graded the performances:
Northwestern and Ohio State played a very ugly basketball game on Wednesday night. Even if Northwestern had managed to win the game, the Wildcats did not play well by any stretch of the imagination. Ohio State was not much better until the final five minutes, but Northwestern looked tired and inept on offense for most of the game. Northwestern continues to rely exclusively on its guard play and the occasional Dererk Pardon put-back. In this game, Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh combined to shoot 25 percent, which left Northwestern floundering on offense as the supporting players were unable to make up the missing production. The zone defense looked better than it had in the first half against Maryland. However, the team failed to come up with key stops in crunch time and continued to look outmatched in transition.
But even with Northwestern playing badly on offense, Ohio State gave Northwestern a great chance to win this game. The Wildcats were down 51-50 with just over five minutes to go in this game. Then, Northwestern just completely folded in front of a raucous crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It wasn’t like Ohio State dominated Northwestern. The Buckeyes’ had their own offensive problems and shot under 50 percent from the line. Northwestern had a winnable game in Big Ten play, and it failed to capitalize on the opportunity, which compounded the team’s awful performance.
Despite ending up as the team's leading scorer, McIntosh had an off game by his standards. His five turnovers were reminiscent of his freshman season, and while he kept Northwestern in the game with two three-pointers late in the game, he did not have a very good shooting night. The turnovers were bad crosscourt passes that immediately led to backbreaking Ohio State fast breaks. While some of his usual crazy floaters went in, McIntosh finally ran into a team that he was unable to beat one-on-one. Ohio State focused all of its efforts on shutting down McIntosh and preventing any easy drives to the basket. McIntosh looked out of energy by the end of the game.
If Demps's 4-16 shooting performance against Maryland earned him a "D-", than an even worse game against Ohio State drops him into the "F" range. Demps was 3-17 from the field and 1-8 from three, and he only managed one rebound and seven points despite playing for nearly the entire game. Demps was forcing shots all game, and he missed several wide-open three pointers. Everything was off for Demps. His shot selection was poor, his drives to the basket were unsuccessful, he missed the basket entirely in some cases, and even his defense slipped as Ohio State's Kam Williams was able to exploit Demps' lack of awareness in the zone defense. His transition defense was also completely listless. At this point, his minutes could be under threat.
The only reason Falzon avoids Demps' fate was that he was slightly better on defense and did put in some work on the defensive glass. However, considering Falzon's usual three-point performance, a 1-7 shooting night from downtown simply won't cut it. While he came up with a couple transition layups, he was never able to find his stroke from three-point land. Falzon's first three came late in the second half. Collins benched Falzon during a cold streak earlier in the season, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with the freshman throughout Big Ten play.
Sanjay Lumpkin attempted zero two-point shots in this game. He shot two threes, and they both missed. While Lumpkin was actually very good on the boards and on defense in this game, his complete lack of offensive output makes him a liability on the court. Lumpkin just looks like he hasn't improved at all from last season, which is bad. While he hasn't regressed like Demps, it's hard for Collins to operate the team with a complete offensive black hole. That being said, Lumpkin has looked much better in the zone defense, and his rebounding remains solid.
Joey van Zegeren
Joey van Zegeren made all three of his foul shots! That alone is cause for celebration. van Zegeren was decent offensively in this game, picking up second chance attempts and showing better post moves than in previous games. However, he picked up four fouls early in the second half and was a complete non-factor in the rest of the game. He can't do that when Olah is out and Northwestern's other option at center is a true freshman.
The good: Pardon had seven offensive rebounds and 14 total in just 25 minutes. He also had two blocks and picked up nine second-chance points.
The bad: Pardon went 4-11 from the floor, which is not good. Pardon was unable to do much in the post, even as Northwestern studiously avoided passing it to him down low. Pardon still has some work to do on transition defense and with his free throws, but it was a decent performance for his fourth career game.
Some people expected Lindsey to take a leap forward this season, but that simply has not happened so far. Lindsey was scoreless in 15 minutes, and he provided no offensive help while McIntosh and Demps struggled. Lindsey missed both his three-point attempts. He failed to get himself involved offensively and was only used on 11 percent of possessions, equal to Lumpkin's usage rate. His three assists were the only positive from the game. Anyone who thinks Lindsey is ready to supplant Demps in the starting lineup has to be cognizant of Lindsey's shortcomings as well.
Gavin Skelly was great in the eight minutes he had during this game. He had a very skillful tip-in, scored four points, and picked up two offensive rebounds. When put in context of Northwestern's offensive disaster, that was actually very good. Skelly did not get any minutes in the second half, which was weird considering van Zegeren had four fouls. But, in the end, Pardon just offers way more on both sides of the floor, so it's understandable.
During the game, there was an amazing sequence in which Taphorn blocked a shot and just missed a spectacular alley-oop from Lindsey. It would have been stupifying if Taphorn had somehow scored off that, but alas, it was not to be. Taphorn hit two big three-pointers but was completely lost on defense yet again. Somehow, Taphorn has failed to improve his defense whatsoever since the start of the year, with occasional spectacular blocks notwithstanding. Collins plays with fire whenever Tap is on the floor, but it did pay off in this game while Northwestern was struggling for offense.
Jordan Ash has been battling a staph infection, but it's rather disappointing that he did not get any minutes that could give Northwestern's exhausted back court a brief respite. McIntosh needs a break every once in a while.