Northwestern-Ohio St. Preview
Ohio State has completed one phase of its three-part mission. A
successful weekend in Indianapolis would take care of another.
The top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Buckeyes begin defense of their
Big Ten Tournament title Friday afternoon against Northwestern in a
quarterfinal matchup at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Ohio State (29-2) capped its stellar Big Ten championship
regular season by avenging its first loss and setting an NCAA
Division I record by making 14 straight 3-pointers in a 93-65 home
win over Wisconsin on Sunday.
Likely to earn a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of
what happens this weekend, Ohio State will try to become the first
school to win back-to-back Big Ten tournament titles since Michigan
State in 1999 and 2000.
The Buckeyes’ three overall tournament titles are the most in
the history of the event.
“Our first mission was a regular-season Big Ten championship.
That’s complete,” Ohio State senior David Lighty said. “Now we’ll
turn our focus on a three-day tournament that we need to win and
that will get us ready for the NCAA tournament. That’s just step
two of our three-step mission.”
The Buckeyes are more than capable, averaging 86.5 points on
56.0 percent shooting during a four-game winning streak since a
76-63 loss at second-seed Purdue on Feb. 20.
“I think it’s just getting more and more intense,” Lighty told
the school’s official website.
Guard Jon Diebler has fueled the Buckeyes’ recent success.
After scoring a career-high 30 points and setting a league
record with 10 3-pointers on 12 attempts in an 82-61 win at Penn
State on March 1, the senior went 7 of 8 from beyond the arc and
finished with 27 points against the Badgers.
“I don’t know. I’m just getting a little bit of daylight,” said
Diebler, who had 19 points in Ohio State’s 90-61 win over Minnesota
in last season’s Big Ten title game.
Eighth-seeded Northwestern (18-12) looks to win consecutive
tournament games for the first time after beating Minnesota 75-65
Though Ohio State has won three straight and 20 of 21 against
the Wildcats, it was pushed to the limit in a 58-57 victory at
Northwestern on Jan. 29. A late steal from Lighty and a
tie-breaking free throw from freshman Jared Sullinger helped keep
the Buckeyes undefeated at the time.
Sullinger finished with 21 points but Diebler was held to three
on 1-of-4 shooting as Ohio State could not shake the pesky Wildcats
despite shooting 56.8 percent.
“We know we can play with these guys, and we’re going to be real
excited for (Friday),” said Northwestern guard Drew Crawford, who
scored 15 points versus Minnesota.
A concussion sidelined Northwestern leading scorer John Shurna
(16.3 points per game) for the January meeting with the Buckeyes,
but he will be on the floor Friday.
Shurna had just two points versus Minnesota, but senior guard
Michael Thompson scored a tournament-record 35.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Thompson said. “I’m just happy my
team came out and we were able to get a win.”
Thompson, who had 16 points against Ohio State earlier this
season, has averaged 23.2 over his last five games.