At least one Big Ten team can take care of its business against lesser opponents. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but against Northwestern, it hardly ever is.
The first half was the Lenzelle Smith Show early, with him hitting a barrage of threes (that’s the technical term for 4 three pointers in a half) and solid play otherwise (we’ll all agree to pretend that break-away non-dunk didn’t happen). But the pesky Wildcats would not go away and the strength of some nifty three-point shooting themselves kept them close in the first half.
Ohio State took a 29-22 lead into the locker room.
Northwestern came out hot, hitting 75% of their shots early while Deshaun Thomas’ shooting woes continued and Northwestern pulled to within two points early in the second half.
It looked like Ohio State might be able to pull away as the defense tightened up and Deshaun Thomas had an easy layup followed by a steal and fast break by Shannon Scott. Up by six, it looked like they would wrest control from the Wildcats and cruise to an easy victory. Then a couple scores by Northwestern followed by a prayer with no time on the shot clock by Abrahamson put Northwestern up by one.
It was back and forth after that, according to script again as Ohio State couldn’t put away the Wildcats until late. But put away them they did, outscoring Northwestern 15-7 down the stretch to win 63-53.
Deshaun continues to be an enigma. He’s had a stretch now of nine or ten games where he has not been efficient in any way. Sure, he’s a “volume shooter” and okay, sure, he has a short memory but he just doesn’t look confident. Craft picked up the slack on Sunday and Smith picked up that slack tonight but this team is going to go as far as Thomas takes them this March.