Well, was I wrong about how this was going to turn out.
Most of the time, in college sports, talent wins out out. Penn State’s basketball team is proof of that. Every once and a while, an underdog or a less-talented team has a game where they play beyond their means and suddenly find themselves in a dog fight against a team that should be beating them. The NCAA tournament is proof of this.
But let’s be honest about this. These are still college athletes at schools that still demand a certain amount of physical talent and basketball skill to play on. Northwestern isn’t a community college. These guys can still ball.
Ohio State came into this game coming off two hard fought losses and can’t be completely blamed for coming out less than inspired. But I don’t think they didn’t care or disrespected Northwestern. Northwestern came in focused, executed their offense with some great back cuts and timely three-pointers. Ohio State played lethargically for for the first fifteen plus minutes of the first half.
A baseline dunk by Sam Thompson with about five minutes to go in the first half sparked the Ohio State faithful and players to take a first half lead and playing from behind for most of it. It looked like they would go in at half-time, leading 27-30.
Then Northwestern hit a last second three to tie the game at the half, 30-30.
In the second half, Deshaun Thomas took the responsibility of scoring on his shoulder and was much more aggressive than he was in the first half, scoring 22. Northwestern, however, would not go away and stuck with the Buckeyes, taking the lead more than once.
Eventually, Ohio State would simply wear Northwestern down, force them into foul trouble and pull away late. Two emphatic dunks by Sam Thompson and free throws by Deshaun Thomas would lead to a misleading ten-point lead, which is how it ended, 69-59.
A win is a win. It wasn’t pretty, it was hopefully something this team had to “get out of their system” and they will be ready for their tilt against Wisconsin on Sunday. They won’t get away with playing like that against Wisconsin at their place.
(UPDATE: GAH, I pulled a Hoke and originally titled this post “Ohio Struggles…”. Self, I AM DISAPPOINT.)