Preview: Ohio State at Northwestern

By Chris Lauderback on February 18, 2009 at 7:00a
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Turner drops a dimeTurner leads the PG-less Bucks with 3.3 APG
Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State 17-6, 7-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 9:00 PM ET - BTN —— Welsh-Ryan Arena Evanston, IL Northwestern Wildcats Northwestern 13-10, 4-8 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Ohio State looks to bounce back from a sloppy 55-50 loss at Wisconsin as they travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern.

The Buckeyes have won 11 straight over the purple team though they are just 43-40 lifetime in Evanston. Thad Matta is a perfect 7-0 against the 'Cats including a pair of double digit wins last season that featured strong performances from Evan Turner and Jon Diebler. Yes, I said Jon Diebler.

Northwestern comes in losers of three straight albeit by a combined nine points. The Wildcats dropped a 70-67 overtime decision against Michigan on Sunday after a heartbreaking 60-59 loss at home to Illinois and a 56-51 defeat at the beaks of the Hawkeyes.

I fully expect a Buckeye victory but you can bet the Wildcats will give OSU their best shot at home trying to stop a three game slide.

#NamePTSREBASSTPOS#NamePTSREBASST
2 Jeremie Simmons 7.4 1.6 2.8 G 22 Michael Thompson 10.0 2.2 3.9
33 Jon Diebler 10.6 3.3 2.7 G 20 Craig Moore 14.6 3.3 2.7
21 Evan Turner 17.3 7.4 3.3 F 44 Kevin Coble 15.5 4.8 2.4
44 William Buford 11.8 3.3 1.1 F 24 John Shurna 7.7 3.0 1.2
52 Dallas Invisi-dale 5.0 4.0 0.3 C 54 Kyle Rowley 3.8 1.8 0.7

Opponent

Northwestern isn't the second coming of Loyola Marymount to be sure but they aren't the same slow it down team you daddy thinks of anymore either. The 'Cats sit right in the middle of the conference pack in points per game (61.8) and they're third in 3pt FG% (38.6%) however they are dead last in 3pt FG% defense as well as offensive and defensive rebounding.

The good news for Bill Carmody is he's likely to have 6'11" freshman center Luka Mirkovic back from a one game stint on the toilet. Mirkovic set career highs in points (14), rebounds (12) and assists (4) in the loss to Illinois before sitting out the Michigan loss due to illness.

The return of Mirkovic is a plus but the key to Northwestern's success hinges on the play of their big three comprised of Kevin Coble, Craig Moore and Michael Thompson.

All three players log 33+ minutes per game with Coble serving as the most valuable Wildcat though he's struggled from the floor the last two outings hitting just 10/30 shots. Moore has also been ice cold (5/18) the last two games after scoring double figures in eight consecutive contests.

Thompson is hasn't seen double figures in the last five games but both he and Moore are shooting 41% from deep on the season so it will be key for OSU to find those two in the match up zone.

Buckeye Breakdown:

The Buckeyes come in vying for their eighth conference win but they'll have to fare better at valuing the ball and hitting the glass than they did against Wisconsin to escape with the W. Ohio State committed a greasy 19 turnovers in Madison and though it was a different roster, they turned it over 20 and 18 times respectively in the two wins over Northwestern last season. If the Wildcats control the tempo possessions will be at a premium increasing the need for OSU to avoid sloppy miscues.

Since I brought up last year, it's worth pointing out Turner lit up the 'Cats in '08 hitting 10/15 shots in two games with 10 points, eight boards and seven assists in the second game while Diebler connected on 7/15 triple tries and 24 total points. Considering Northwestern's overall lack of athleticism, this could be a game in which Deebs actually gets off a shot without the aid of five screens. I expect he'll get loose for about four triples in this one.

Considering Northwestern's troubles on the glass, we could also see bounce back performances from either Dallas Invisidale or B.J. Mullens. Excepting the five turnovers, Mullens has been decent averaging 11.3 points and seven boards in his last three outings but Invisidale has stunk it up averaging a feminine 2.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in his last six games. If Dallas doesn't pick it up soon, one has to wonder if Mullens could supplant him as the starter.

Speaking of who should start, P.J. Hill is getting some run in the comments though he's got more turnovers than assists (14 to 12) in his last eight games. His numbers are slightly favorable to that ratio in the last three games (9 Asst, 7 TO). Over the same stretches, Jeremie Simmons has 20 dimes and 15 turnovers in his last eight games but in his last three he's reversed course with exactly zero assists against five turnovers.

So, as I said in slightly less pretty words via the comments Monday, Hill might have the edge lately but comparing the two is a painful exercise in futility. I'd almost rather play with four. If either of these two can simply not hurt the cause tonight that would go a long way in aiding a victory because you can bet Northwestern will force OSU to execute in the half court.

When it's all said and done, I expect Ohio State to come away with a 68-62 victory.

Etc

  • I'm still baffled as to why folks jump on Turner. Sure his untimely turnovers - or high amount of turnovers in general - are as irritating as your DVR cutting off the last minute of The Office but keep in mind he's one of only nine D-1 players in the country leading his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. Just for kicks, he's also leading the team in minutes played, field goals and free throws made, as well as total offensive and defensive rebounds. That, my friends, is good enough for a free pass on turnovers if you ask me. It should also be good enough for Big Ten POY honors but I have a feeling Kalin Lucas might swoop in as the best player on the best team.
  • In conference play, Wil Buford leads all freshman with a 14.5 points per game average.
  • Also in conference play, B.J. Mullens leads in field goal percentage at 70.9%.
  • Your ears will get a welcome break tonight as Jim Jackson will not be the color commentator. Instead, Steve Smith will rock the mic along with Tom Hamilton.
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