Ohio State kicked off their 100th season of B1G basketball in style getting a career high 28 points from William Buford on 9/14 shooting including 5/7 from downtown with nine boards in an 87-54 blowout victory over Northwestern tonight in Value City Arena.
The win was the 31st in a row against the Wildcats at home and the 34th straight for the Buckeyes in Columbus overall, good for the 3rd longest streak in the nation.
Jared Sullinger also returned to beast mode following a few ginger games with back and foot issues notching his 7th double double of the season with 17 points and 14 rips in just 22 minutes of action thanks to the Ed Hightower and company's worn out whistles.
Deshaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert also reached double figures with 16 and 12, respectively.
It looked like the Buckeyes might settle for another sluggish start as they trailed 10-8 after a John Shurna triple with 14:01 left in the half but Buford sparked a 28-7 blitz over the next 10 minutes helping OSU take a commanding 36-17 lead with just over four minutes before intermission.
Buford scored 10 points during the run with a pretty triple from the top of the circle, a deep jumper from almost the same spot, a heady pull-up leaner off penetration and finally another trey off a nice find by Shannon Scott to cap spurt.
Reserve Jordan Sibert, the owner of a 26% shooting percentage from downtown (8/31) coming in, also caught fire during the blitz splashing three triples in five minutes while Sully hit a pair of free throws and a three of his own to start the rally.
The run was aided by dominance on the boards, poor shooting from Northwestern's big guns and curious strategy from Bill Carmody. Instead of running the shot clock down and killing OSU with backcuts, the Wildcats often settled for deep jumpers early in possessions.
When the horn finally sounded to end the half, Shurna and Drew Crawford, the two leading scorers in the conference, had combined for just 10 points on 4/18 from the floor. Meanwhile, OSU dominated the windows racking up a 27-13 rebounding edge including +6 on the offensive glass.
Shooting just 32% on the season from distance, the Buckeyes connected on 7/14 in the opening 20 minutes behind 3/4 efforts from both WB and Sibert.
The decisive spurt and foul trouble for Sullinger and Aaron Craft helped Matta give 10 Buckeyes playing time in the 1st half.
Leading 41-26 to start the 2nd half, Craft immediately picked up his 3rd foul away from the ball and Sully picked up his 3rd 3 minutes later with OSU leading 47-33. Northwestern would cut the lead to 13 at 49-36 on a trey from Shurna at the 14:58 mark but Ohio State responded with a 19-6 knockout blow, most of it without Sully and Craft, to take a 68-42 lead with 9:29 left in regulation.
Buford again keyed the blitzkrieg scoring 10 points off another smart pull-up in traffic for an and-1, a perfect 4/4 from the stripe and a trey from the corner pocket.
It was straight garbage time from there as Thad emptied the bench allowing a total of 10 Buckeyes to score though LaQuinton Ross recorded a 2-trillion. Amir Williams stood out with six boards in eight minutes.
Thomas played another well-balanced game and was a factor on the glass with four of his five boards coming at the offensive end. With Sullinger looking spry and Buford finding his stroke, the conference saw just how dangerous this team can be when the Big Three are all clicking.
The other starters, Craft and Smith, didn't show much tonight. Craft played just 22 minutes due to fouls and the lopsided score picking up two points, two boards and three dimes while Smith notched four points, four boards and two assists in just 18 minutes. Smith's minutes were stolen by Sibert's hot hand leading to 20 minutes (4/6 3FG).
Shannon Scott played well with Craft saddled with foul trouble recording four assists against one turnover in 17 minutes.
For the game, Ohio State shot 48% from the floor and 10/20 from distance while owning the glass 49-30 and holding Northwestern to 32% shooting featuring a combined 9/30 from Shurna and Crawford.
Next up for the Buckeyes, a showdown in Bloomington against Indiana on New Years Eve at 6:00pm. The game can be seen on the ESPN2.