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

on Thursday.

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.