The Wildcats were completely dismantled by Ohio State in the first matchup between the programs this season as they lost 87-54 in Columbus on Dec. 28th. Northwestern was held to 32.1 percent shooting from the floor by the Buckeyes, which was its lowest shooting clip in conference play this season. Ohio State had no trouble scoring in the contest as it drained 47.5 percent of its field goals including 10-of-20 from three-point range.
Thad Matta's team needs to win tonight to make Michigan State's lead in the Big Ten standings just one game, which would give it the opportunity to claim a share of the league's regular season title in its rematch with the Spartans in Sunday's season finale. The Buckeyes fell 63-60 to Wisconsin at home on Sunday, which made their overall record 23-6. Ohio State has alternated wins and losses for six games now, but it has still avoided losing two in a row. Ohio State's had found success this season on the both ends of the floor as it is ranked second in the Big Ten in both scoring offense (74.7) and scoring defense (57.6).
The Buckeyes will need to get their superstar forward Jared Sullinger back in tune if they are going to make a run this postseason. Sullinger was held under 10 points in each of his last two games, which had never happened in consecutive games before. Ohio State will really need Sullinger to be aggressive tonight against NU's thin and injury plagued front line. Senior guard William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas are each contributing 15.1 ppg, while sophomore point guard Aaron Craft runs the show.
The national spotlight is shining brighter on Northwestern's basketball program than ever before as the Wildcats attempt to make their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern is predicted to be one of the last teams in at this point, which means it could have its bubble popped at a moments notice. The Wildcats just escaped their visit to University Park with a 67-66 win over Penn State on Saturday to improve to 17-11 overall and 7-9 in Big Ten action. Bill Carmody's team has dealt with the injury bug all season which has resulted in three Wildcats being in the league's top 10 in minutes played per game. NU will not be able to match Ohio State's size and physicality, however it can keep this one close and even pull off what would be the biggest victory in program history if its three-point shooting is on point. The Wildcats have made more threes than any other team in the Big Ten, and are ranked second with a 38.3 percent connection rate from deep.
John Shurna is going to be playing his final game for Northwestern as his exceptional career nears its end. Shurna recently became the school's all-time leading scorer, and is leading the Big Ten in scoring this season with an average of 20.1 ppg. The senior forward led the team to victory at Penn State with 23 points, six assists, and five blocks. Drew Crawford has also had a very strong season, as he is fifth in the conference in scoring with 16.1 ppg. Shurna, Crawford, and starting guard Reggie Hearn are all shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. Freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski has proven to be a great decision maker. Sobolewski paces the Wildcats' backdoor infested Princeton style offense.