Buckeyes host Wildcats in Big Ten opener
Columbus, OH – The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes begin their 100th season of Big Ten action, as they welcome the Northwestern Wildcats to Columbus for a showdown at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes have certainly looked the part of the national title contender. The lone loss on the season for Thad Matta's squad came on the road at Kansas, with OSU's best player on the bench due to back spasms. Since then, the team has posted four straight wins, including a 69-40 rout of Miami-Ohio last week, moving to 11-0 at home this season.
Bill Carmody's Wildcats should present a challenge in this Big Ten opener. Northwestern is an impressive 10-2 to start the 2011-12 campaign, with the two losses coming against top-25 foes in Baylor (69-41) and Creighton (87-79). The loss to the Bluejays however, occurred in the team's last outing and dropped NU to 1-1 in true road games this season.
This marks the 155th meeting in this longstanding series. Ohio State holds a decisive 109-45 advantage overall and has won 27 consecutive games at home against Northwestern. The Wildcats' last victory at Ohio State came back in 1977.
The Wildcats are fueled by the potent one-two punch of John Shurna and Drew Crawford. The Big Ten's scoring leader, Shurna can light it up, averaging 19.4 ppg. The 6-9 forward has plenty of range and is currently knocking down an impressive 44.9 percent from behind the arc (35-of-78). Crawford is another long range bomber, netting 18.1 ppg and shooting 41.9 percent from three-point range (26-of-62). The scoring pool dries up a little after that, with Luka Mirkovic placing third on the scoring list at 8.3 ppg. Crawford went off for a game-high 34 points, but it wasn't enough to lead the Wildcats to a road win at Creighton last time out. Crawford was an impressive 13-of-17 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Shurna drained four treys and finished with 18 points. while Davide Curletti chipped in 10 points off the bench. Northwestern shot 50 percent from the floor in the game, but was held at bay by the Bluejays, who hit 12-of-21 from behind the arc.
The Buckeyes jumped on top of the RedHawks early on and cruised to a 29-point victory at Nationwide Arena last week. William Buford led the way with 18 points. Deshaun Thomas poured in 15, while Jared Sullinger tacked on 11. Ohio State, which shot just 39.3 percent from the floor in the first half, still took a nine point lead into halftime (26-17). The Buckeyes converted 50 percent over the final 20 minutes to post the easy victory. Ohio State can win games at either end of the floor and is enjoying a +23.4 scoring margin. The team is shooting .494 overall and netting 78.6 ppg, while limiting foes to just 55.2 ppg. Sullinger is one of if not the best big man in the country, averaging 16.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Thomas and Buford provided plenty of scoring balance at 15.8 ppg apiece. Craft is a steady influence at the point. The 6-2 sophomore is averaging 8.2 ppg, but has really excelled at distributing the ball, averaging 5.5 apg.