Ohio State looks to start another winning streak when it hosts Northwestern on Sunday in Columbus.
The No. 13 Buckeyes (9-3, 3-1 Big Ten) had won five straight before running into a buzzsaw at Indiana on Thursday, losing 67-51.
A 19-3 run for the Hoosiers resulted in the Buckeyes’ fewest points since a 68-50 loss at Northwestern on March 6, 2019.
Ohio State entered shooting 48.9 percent from the floor but hit 30.8 percent.
“I thought we missed some open shots, but I thought also that we just weren’t able to impose ourselves enough through the paint on drives,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Got bodied up on drives, put ourselves in too difficult of a position at times driving the ball and getting the ball tipped or blocked. I didn’t think our rim decisions were great. All things we’ve got to work on in film and clean up for sure.”
Northwestern (8-4, 1-2) has lost two straight in similar fashion. The Wildcats had a 13-point, first-half lead against Michigan State before losing 73-67.
Wednesday, Northwestern was up 55-45 on Penn State with under 10 minutes left but lost 74-70.
“We can use tonight as a stepping point, and from now on, I would expect to see a different team,” Northwestern’s Robbie Beran said afterward. “We all have belief in ourselves, so it’s just about drawing the line and getting over the hump.”
Each of the Wildcats’ four losses have been by six or fewer points.
“We’ve got to keep fighting. We’re being tested a little bit,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Like I told the guys, ‘We’ve got to get to work, got to get a little bit tougher.’ I don’t think we’re going to cancel the season three games into the league. It’s a 20-game schedule and we’ve got to get better.”
The Buckeyes need to get All-American candidate E.J. Liddell untracked. He is averaging 18.9 points for the season after two clunkers following the Buckeyes’ 22-day break due to COVID-19 issues.
Against Nebraska and Indiana he shot a combined 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) on field goals and 2-for-10 (20.0) from 3-point range while totaling 21 points on his two lowest scoring outputs of the season.
“He maybe doesn’t quite look the same, but also tonight they really defended him well,” Holtmann said following the Indiana game. “We’ve got to figure out how to get him in a few better spots and I think he’s got to impose himself a little bit more in terms of some of the effort plays that he can make to create some easy baskets. That’s the biggest challenge for him right now.”
Malaki Branham has tried to pick up some of the slack. The freshman led the team in scoring the past two games with 35 and 13 points.
The Buckeyes hope graduate forward Kyle Young (9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) also returns to form.
After sitting out the Nebraska game because of a non-COVID-19 illness, he had three points and two rebounds in 17 minutes vs. the Hoosiers.
“I thought he gave us good minutes,” Holtmann said. “He just didn’t quite look himself yet. Obviously, we need him. He’s going to be really important for us.”
–Field Level Media