Big Ten Observations: Ohio State at Northwestern

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 7th, 2016

Ohio State moved to 3-0 in Big Ten play in an ugly win over Northwestern last night. The Wildcats moved to 1-2 in dropping another important home game that could come back to bite them on Selection Sunday. Here are four quick observations from the Buckeyes’ convincing 65-56 win in Evanston.

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

  • Kam Williams Looms as a Potential Game-Changer: In a game where neither team could make perimeter shots (11-of-43 combined from three-point range), Williams knocked in five buckets from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard was off to a nondescript start to this season (6.3 PPG in 17.2 MPG during non-conference games), but on a team where the next best outside shooter hits only 34 percent from deep, Williams’ development as a scoring option could allow the Buckeyes to make a run at a top four finish.
  • Ohio State’s Defense Keeps Improving: Ohio State is currently ranked 19th in defensive efficiency and much of that success can be attributed to their size — the Buckeyes don’t have anyone smaller than 6’4″ in their starting five. That length allows Thad Matta‘s group to defend at an elite level, and this was on full display last night. The Buckeyes blocked eight shots, holding Northwestern to 0.82 points per possession and 35.7 percent from two-point range. And despite some offensive limitations, Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens are becoming defensive menaces.

  • Northwestern’s Lack of Backcourt Depth Spells Trouble: Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps are respectively averaging 35.0 MPG and 36.3 MPG and it was troubling to see the duo get so fatigued in the second half. Chris Collins needs a couple of his wings to ease some of their scoring burden — someone from the trio of Scottie Lindsey, Aaron Falzon and Nathan Taphorn needs to be able to produce points when the primary options aren’t doing so. In 57 minutes of action, the three players accounted for only 14 points last night.
  • All is Not Lost in Evanston: It’s nearly impossible to talk about Northwestern this season without mentioning the words “NCAA Tournament” in some meaningful way. Two home losses to Maryland and Ohio State definitely give reason for pause, but there are also some positive takeaways. Dererk Pardon has been better than anyone has expected and Alex Olah should be back soon from a foot injury. Olah’s return in particular should alleviate some of the recent shooting issues with better spacing on the perimeter. But upcoming games at Minnesota along with home contests against Wisconsin and Penn State have become much more important. The Wildcats cannot afford to lose games to teams in the bottom half of the standings if they have designs on a realistic NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in history.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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