Men’s Basketball: Buckeyes dominate glass in win over Wildcats

Dan Ryan

The story was the same for Northwestern on Wednesday against Ohio State, even if the score covered it up.

The Wildcats have a weakness in the post.

The Buckeyes outrebounded the Cats, 44-18, in their 75-73 win over NU, dominating inside and consistently creating second chances on offense.

“They destroyed us on the backboards,” coach Bill Carmody said.

When teams stop NU’s Princeton offense from using backdoor cuts to generate points, Carmody said the team has little other option than to shoot well from beyond the arc.

“It was obvious in the first half that we were going to get a lot of 3-point shots,” Carmody said. “We were 7-for-16 in the first half. That’s what we told the guys at halftime, that you’re going to get a lot of those. They weren’t letting you have too much with the backdoor.”

NU finished 13-of-27 from beyond the arc, which was not enough to overcome their deficiency on the boards.

The rebounding issue is something that has plagued the Cats throughout the season. NU is 17-12 despite ranking last in the Big Ten in rebound offense, rebound defense, rebound margin, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds.

And with only 12 defensive rebounds in Wednesday’s contest, the Cats were left to hope the Buckeyes made mistakes on offense. Despite forcing Ohio State into 16 turnovers, NU’s defense simply could not overcome their opponent on the boards, leading to 20 second-chance points for the Buckeyes.

“It was either they score or we turn them over,” Carmody said. “If you force a team into 16 turnovers, that’s usually pretty good. That means you’re going to get some more possessions. But they just killed us on second shots.”

NU has been on the wrong end of the rebounding story almost every game they have played so far this season but have overcome this weakness in other facets of their game. Carmody routinely went with a small lineup, choosing to play senior forward John Shurna at center, and compensated for NU’s lack of inside presence with excellent shooting and backdoor cuts, which Ohio State coach Thad Matta alluded to after Wednesday’s game.

“A lot of teams (outrebound) Northwestern and don’t beat them,” Matta said. “But we felt going into the game, especially if they went to the 1-3-1 (zone), we could do a heck of a job on the glass.”

The Buckeyes executed this plan to perfection, led by forward Jared Sullinger, who finished with 22 points and a staggering 18 rebounds.

Even in Ohio State’s final possession, when many teams would have tried for an open jump shot, the Buckeyes gave the ball to Sullinger in the paint. His layup with 3.3 seconds remaining made the difference for his team.

Despite switching between the 1-3-1 zone and man defense while mixing in senior forward Davide Curletti to put more size in the Cats’ lineup, NU never found an answer to Ohio State’s domination on the boards.

“We couldn’t stop them,” Carmody said. “We really couldn’t stop them.”

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