Ugly Win Earns Bucks Shot at Conference Title

By Chris Lauderback on February 29, 2012 at 10:54p
AP photo: Nam Y. HuhSully's game winner capped a 22/18 dub-dub

The headline should've read "Buckeyes Kick Northwestern's Glass" thanks to a ridiculous 44-18 rebounding edge including a 20-6 advantage on the offensive backboard yielding a 20-7 gap in 2nd chance points...

But Ohio State blew a 12 point lead with 5:39 left surrendering a 15-3 Wildcat spurt before a well designed play saw the Buckeyes go the length of the court to score the game winning bucket with 3.1 seconds left allowing the Buckeyes to prevail 75-73 tonight in Evanston

Having to go the length of the floor, the game winning bucket was a display of beautiful execution as Lenzelle Smith inbounded to Aaron Craft around the opposing three point line who took a few dribbles before lofting a perfectly placed pass to Sullinger just off the right block enabling him to catch, spin to his right and launch a soft bank shot from eight feet, all in one motion. 

The quick score gave Northwestern time to inbound and 11th year senior John Shurna almost pulled off a stunner as his 30 foot runner was on line but drew front iron and caromed to the floor giving the Buckeyes a chance to play for a share of the regular season conference title in East Lansing on Sunday afternoon. 

Though winning is the bottom line at this point in the season, the late collapse is still very concerning. Leading 70-58 after a great look from Deshaun Thomas to Smith for a layup, the Buckeyes hit just one of five shots before Sully's game winner while turning it over five times. The lone bucket during Northwestern's 15-3 run came on a Thomas triple that shouldn't have counted as Craft clearly walked in the lane before kicking the rock out to Thomas on the left wing. 

Of course, that shouldn't give Northwestern fans reason to whine considering Smith was called for a phantom travel call with :41 left as the Buckeyes led by three at 73-70. The Wildcats failed to capitalize on the gift from the zebras thanks to a missed shot by Reggie Hearn but Thomas - as we've seen the OSU bigs often do - grabbed the rebound but brought the ball below his waist allowing JerShon Cobb to steal the ball setting up an Alex Marcotullio triple from well beyond the top of the key to tie the game at 73 with 7.3 seconds to play setting up Sully's game winner. 

Sullinger led the Buckeyes with 22 points and 18 boards, 11 of which came at the offensive end, giving him a 12th dub-dub this year and the 30th of his career. In other words, Sully pulled down as many rips as the entire Northwestern roster. 

Thomas was also a monster with 19 points and 10 boards (4 Off) and Craft, despite four turnovers, turned in a very necessary 14 point night going 5/7 from the floor including a career high four triples in five attempts. 

Craft's offensive outburst was key as William Buford scored just six points on 3/10 from the field. Buford never got into the offensive flow thanks to two early fouls that forced him to the pine for the final 11:45 of the 1st half. Buford did pull down six boards with four dimes against just one turnover but if he's not the most frustrating player in the Matta era then I don't know who is. 

Smith also helped pick up Buford's slack with 12 points and a career high seven assists in a sturdy 33 minutes. 

The bench turned in another janky performance with a combined 23 minutes, two points, 1/3 shooting, three boards, three assists, four turnovers and four fouls. Speaking of fouls, Shannon Scott continued his hackish ways with two fouls in less than a minute which got me curious as to how many fouls Scott has this year versus field goals made. Get this: For the season, Scott has 16 made field goals against 41 fouls. In conference play, he had four made field goals against 27 fouls. Unreal. I mean, I'm not trying to hate, I'm sure he'll get better but damn, can he get much worse? 

I'm still amazed this was even a game over the final five minutes based on how things were going early. The Buckeyes took a 39-29 lead at the half thanks to 59% shooting, an eye-popping 21-5 rebounding edge and an 11-0 bulge in 2nd chance points. Sully and Thomas combined for 25 points as OSU built a 20-8 lead in points in the paint but the Buckeyes couldn't shake the nerds thanks to eight turnovers leading to 11 Wildcat points and a lax perimeter defense that allowed seven triples in 16 tries.

Craft also helped the NW cause in the opening 20 minutes with three turnovers against zero assists albeit with five points before hitting three big bombs from distance in the first seven minutes of the 2nd half. Before his final play precision on the pass to Sully, he struggled at the end of the 1st half failing to get a shot on the iron after overdriving. Better clock awareness and he could've easily pulled up for a 17-20 foot jumper. 

The Buckeyes shot 50% from the floor on the night but hit just 32% from distance (6/19) and 69% from the stripe (11/16). 

Northwestern also shot 50% on the night including a healthy 48% from beyond the arc (13/27). 

Shurna (22 pts, 7/19 FG) and Drew Crawford (23 pts, 9/11) did all the damage for the Wildcats. 

Though the team continues to frustrate with their wildly inconsistent play, they now sit at 24-6 overall and 12-5 in conference. I can't say I'm confident they can win on Sunday but that's why you play the games. See you Sunday at 4pm. Then, whatever the outcome, it's time for tournament basketball where all that matters is whether you survive and advance. 




thatlillefty's picture

Just got done watching the game on my DVR. The tape cut right after we turned the ball over with 40 seconds to play, up 3.

Honestly, I was not expecting to hear we came out with a win. Because we did everything we could in those last ten minutes to give this one away. But I'll take it.

703Buckeye's picture

Lefty, we meet again...

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

thatlillefty's picture

don't recognize the handle. Is the 703 for NOVA?

703Buckeye's picture

Do the leters gcm mean anything to you?

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

703Buckeye's picture

This game did very little to give me hope for a Bucks win in East Lansing this weekend.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Other than sparty lost on that floor at NU whilst our Buckeyes won.

703Buckeye's picture

Don't start the 6 degrees of separation stuff. I could say the we beat Duke while MSU lost, but that really doesn't mean anything.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

zbd's picture

Poor play at crunch time will end this season quickly.  OSU has mental lapses which are unexplainable.  Everybody is looking for a go-to guy who isn't on the team.

painterlad's picture

Craft got away with a travel and Sullinger got away with an obvious technical. Refs helping out the Bucks? With everything there is a first time.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

So much complaining even after a win.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

buckeyenut10's picture

I'm not going to lie, but can we give a little credit to NW for the comeback? It WAS their senior night at home. The croud got really into it, and that can do wonders for these young men (anyone remember that Wiscy football game we shouldn't have won?)

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

So much complaining even after a win.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Conroy's picture

The shots have to start falling eventually?  Right?


Here's to Buford going out Kemba Walker style.

Brutus's picture

I was actually impressed with Sully's composure up until the ball throwing incident. He kept his emotions under control, didn't flop and didn't complain about the calls. But he still lost it and at the most inopportune time. This seems so out of character for him and a Matta led team. This team, which seems anything like a team, is teetering on the edge of implosion. Yet, we haven't seen a complete collapse. Not sure if that's a good sign or bad.

LadyBuck's picture

The fact that we WON the game is a huge plus. I was at the game last year where we won by ONE point. The way we've been playing lately, my rational mind said we'd lose, because NW is hard to beat at home, and this team hasn't been playing like a team. There are things that need to be improved, yes, but the fact that we came out with a win is amazing.

Buckeye06's picture

I know you can't say that one team is playing for more than the other when OSU should be competing for a potential 1 seed if they win out.  But this is NW, who is seeking their first tourney appearence ever.  They had senior night last night for a necessary win.  I'm not saying I wish OSU hadn't blown them out, but man they were hitting 30+ footers last night in the 2nd half. 

If OSU hadn't lost a few other games, this wouldn't be more than a blipp

ekeith21's picture

Juwanna man part 2 starring William Bufford in a theater near you! He should hang it up!

dubjayfootball90's picture

I still stand by my statement that I made in November/December, I truly believe WB is going to be the difference come tournament time, whether it be B1G tourney or NCAA MM. He will be the difference maker.


A prediction several months in the making!!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

A bad difference or a good difference?

dubjayfootball90's picture

good difference, I love WB, and I feel as though something big is on the horizon

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Poison nuts's picture

I've been feeling that same way most of the year too...but they've just looked so different than earlier in the year. I hope you're right.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

CtrlAltDel's picture

Northwestern did beat Michigan State this year and lost to Michigan in OT (both times).

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

When you own the boards as hard as OSU did they should have won by a gazillion points. How many TOs did the team have?

FortMeyer's picture

Take into account the rebounding edge, good shooting %, and Craft scoring the way he did you would think it would have been a fourteen point win. I think it shows how well NW actually played. They, NW, would have beaten most anyone last night IMO.

baddogmaine's picture

The most interesting stat of the game for me was Buford taking but one shot in the first half - and we led by 10. In the second half Will went 2 for 9 and we blew a big lead. This is not coincidence. As long as Matta gives WB a green light to shoot this team is dead men walking.At this point n the year especting Buford to make lots of shots is foolish optimism. Permitting him to take lots of shots is foolish coaching.

If we are looking for someone who needs to step up and should be able to do it it is Craft. He has scored more the last few games, which is needed since Buford's scoring comes at too high a price - all those missed shots - but Aaron HAS to do better than 2 assists and 4 turnovers. And since he will need to have the ball in his hands he has to be able to shoot FTs at and of game better than he has. Like Sullinger Craft came into the year with high expectations, but he appears to be only the third best point guard in the Big Ten, never mind the US. It's odd to say this but he needs to return to his freshman form.

And when it's clear that the only way a team can beat us (as opposed to our offense beating itself) is by taking a ton of threes we might want to defend the perimiter better than we did. Too many teams and individuals have had exceptional outside shooting days against us this year.

There is a lot of complaining after a win. There should be. Had there been more complaining after our wins early in the season the team might have made adjustments that would have made complaining now unnecessary.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

You have more faith in the transformative power of fan complaints than I do.

baddogmaine's picture

On one level you're right. Sites like this are acts of vanity for the bloggers and commentators alike.

This is not likely to happen but if next year's team falls to .500 and that becomes our level for a few years the fans would voice their displeasure. With some expectation or at least hope that the administration would hear. Right? So why do we have to wait till the wheels have fallen off to say that the lug nuts are coming loose?

Coaches hear fans' voices if the voices are loud enough and sensible enough. Had fans let Matta know a month ago or more that what he was doing did not seem to be based on good judgment he might have heard. An attempt to let officials know when they are wrong is also why sites like this exist, right?

cbusbuckeye's picture

It really seemed like the collapse started when Buford checked back in late in the 2nd. Started forcing shots as usual and the team lost the cohesiveness that it had most of the game

autohustle's picture

concerning but you gotta like the execution with the game on the line. something we haven't seen from this team up to this point.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

 A win on the road is a good win.  WB bounced a ball off his foot.  Craft made a pass that bounced on the out of hound line.  No bench.  Senior night.  Maybe this is the type of win that sparks something...maybe.

ekeith21's picture

They were playing Northwestern. I'd expect OSU to execute against a team like them. It shouldn't even have come to that. Dubjay I like the positive thoughts about William Bufford (And i hope im eating my words in March) but mentally he doesn't have what it takes to get out of this rut. He has declined as the season has gone on. He doesn't have the mental toughness to pick himself up and regroup. Bufford will continue to jack up shots instead of trying to get his teammates more involved. The best way for him to get out of this funk is to do that exactly and then he will start getting some easy baskets which build confidence for himself. He has no fire. There is no leader on this team.

CoachGrasso's picture

This is a good win. Take into account, this was Senior Night for the All-Time Leading Scorer in NW history AND a win would have locked up a tourney bid for the first time in NW history. It was a big game for them. Credit to them to fighting to the end, but the bottom line is we got out of there with a W and will play for a share of the B1G title Sunday.

Sully played with swag and tenacity last night that reminded us all that when he's full go, he is one of the best in the country. If he can keep up this level of effort, it will be a fun month.

My one gripe is the use of Sully in the high ball screen on the two possessions prior to the game winner. Both possession resulted in 18ft jumpers without Sully touching the ball (both turned into NW 3s on the other end). Those key possessions are when the ball needs to go to Sully on the block because he will score or get fouled. It would have stayed a two/three possession game if that would have happened.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Agree, but give some credit to NW.  They did a nice job of denying on many possesions.  They don't have the horses but are well coached.

miller2234's picture

Does any one know what happened to Jordan Sibert?  The guy is by no means a great player off the bench but why does he not see any time at all?  He plays good defense and when he was in has shown the ability to shoot the ball well... a lot better than ST or SS.  All Sam T does is look out of place with the ball in his hands and look for a back screen oop.  


Chris Lauderback's picture

Sibert lost his minutes to Thompson because Thompson is a better man to man defender and neither of them can shoot (at least not yet).

I would dispute Sibert showed an ability to shoot the ball well at all this year. He hit 29% of his FG including only 26% from three and that was supposed to be his defined role - a shooter off the bench that could stretch the defense. Not so much.

Not saying I love Thompson but Sibert was one dimensional to begin with so when he proved he wasn't going to add that dimension, there was no use for him in the rotation, at least in my view.

joejoekl's picture

On a night-by-night basis, OSU is getting every team's best efforts.  You can see it in the other team's faces - they want to win.  They want to scrape back, play hard, knock off the reigning #1.  They make ridiculously impossible three pointers, or get a call their way because of their effort.  Sometimes, it almost makes me want to cheer for them - everyone loves an underdog.

I wish OSU would make me want to cheer for them (besides the fact that I am a fan).  If we all started out as neutral fans every year, looking for a team to get behind, a team to root for, I wonder how many of us would be behind these Buckeyes?  Just a thought.


Oakland Buckeye's picture

Def a good win on the road vs a projected NCAA team who beat MSU... but I understand the concerns about WB, Our collapse down the stretch coincided with him taking 3 ill advised shots early in the shot clock on 3 straight possesions (all misses), and I seemed to me that is what set off Sully a bit. I really think this team will be better without him - as the only games he has produced in are games he wasn't needed.

Chris - I totally agree about Scott - have been saying this for weeks - the thought we cold have had Burke as an actual 2 who can shoot alongsike Craft like Thad has been running the two points together would be formidable. The absolute bricks he & thompson threw up last night is embasrrassing at the DI level. I had seen kids every night this week in HS tourney play who have a better touch than those two. How a coach cannot see their lack of perimeter game is amazing to me. Like everyone else - if WB doesnt go on a kemba tear, we are out early.

NW Buckeye's picture

My 2 cents....   Did not like the way we crunched it down to the final seconds, but the last play/basket by Craft and Sully was executed to perfection.  Nice to finally see a last second finish by this team.  Also, the ball throwing incident by Sully was not as bad as everyone seems to make it.  Yes, it was probably a stupid thing to do, but the net effect is that he delivered the ball to the spot it would be inbounded.  The first look on TV appeared to be bad, but the replay clearly showed that the toss landed exactly where the ball was to be inbounded - don't know if that was intentional or a fluke, but that is why there was no T.  And, I can understand his frustration because of the lack of a foul call.  He was getting hammered again last night - the current line of thought on defending Sully is to just go ahead and hammer him - heck the refs aren't going to call much anyway. 

There was also a comment here about the traveling by Craft that was not called.  That may be so, but there were also many missed calls that went NU's way as well.  This is probably the biggest reason I can't stand basketball as a spectator.  Too many missed calls that can make a big difference in any game.  I have a hard time watching any game other than the Buckeyes because the level of officiating is just plain bad.  Ticky tacky contact that is a foul, blatant contact that gains an advantage is not called.  I forced myself to watch several non OSU games in the last week and this was commonplace.  And, I applaud the CBS crew on some of their commentary on the officiating - at least they are calling the officiating what it is - BAD.  Too often the BTN guys compliment the officials by saying they are letting the players play - heck, if I wanted to see games like that I could go to any rec pick up game and see that level of play - and those players will actually call fouls on themselves more frequently than some of the B1G officials making the calls in games that are supposed to be officiated.  I know, it is all part of the game.  I will get off my soap box now......

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Lots of concern with this year's team, but last night really wasn't that much different than last season when our guys left Evanston with a one point win.  I remember we had a 10ish point lead in that game, too.  I don't remember all of the criticism and concern after that game.  Maybe the bafooning on our part wasn't as bad?  It was also a game played in the 50s if I remember correctly.

I don't blame Sully for being frustrated.  He doesn't need to be showing it, and getting T'd up would've been the worst thing possible at that point in the game.  But I'm tired of these horrible B1G refs that aren't even qualified to be Walmart greeters.  I can't believe they called a jump ball (the one that led to the Sully toss) on that one play.  The defender touched the ball for like 0.5 seconds, and Sully ultimately came away with it - definitely not a tie-up.  That may have been a foul, or at least nothing called either way.  Refs pull the trigger too quickly on these jump ball calls.  I thought defenders actually had to hold on to the ball for a couple of seconds for it to be a jump ball.  The travel call on Lenzelle was also an absolute joke.  If you travel because somebody hit you, that's a foul.  Or, no call at all. 

College basketball officiating is absolutely pathetic as a whole, and has played a large role in most of our losses.  I agree with NW Buckeye on how bad it is pretty much everywhere.  It may be easy to notice officiating when you're watching your favorite team, but even if I'm watching a random Big East or ACC game, for example (when nothing else is on), between two teams that I couldn't care less which one wins, and I notice officiating and bad calls, which sometimes I have, that's a sign that officiating is pretty bad.  I always thought NBA officiating was bad, but it is actually pretty good in comparison.

It's getting to the point where I am actually happy to see bad calls go our way (see Aaron Craft travel no-call - I literally LOL'd at the NW fans screaming for a travel).  Normally, I don't like to benefit from those.  Thankfully, I felt the infamous PI call against Miami was a good call (should've been defensive holding, same result though, splitting hairs there).  But I wouldn't be bragging too much if I were a scUM fan, though...not a lot to be excited about winning the Sugar Bowl thanks to a very bad incomplete pass call against VT. 

This team does have to learn how to execute in the final minute of a close game.  They did on that last play, but it should've never come down to needing a go-ahead shot with 3 seconds to go.  Too many turnovers, too many blown defensive assignments, and some guys that are getting lucky enough to hit some big shots, but still, there's a lot of that that we can control, and we have to get better with that.  Also, we need to make sure we put people away when we have them right where we want them.  We have to stop going on these scoring droughts that are letting teams get back in the game. 

Class of 2010.