Saturday, January 29th 2011
Riding a two-game losing streak, and in desperate need of a win, the Northwestern Wildcats (13-7, 3-6) face their toughest challenge of the season when they face the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (21-0, 8-0) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
This will be the 16th time that Northwestern has faced a top-ranked opponent, and the first occurrence in five years.
Northwestern has lost two-straight games, and three of their last four conference games. Needless to say, the Wildcats need a win. However, a win against the undefeated Buckeyes will be a tough task.
Ohio State showed their dominance on Tuesday night, with a blowout victory against #12 Purdue. The Buckeyes have outscored their opponents by an average of 21.8 points.
Meanwhile, Northwestern is coming off an 11-point defeat from the Minnesota Golden Gophers and prior to that, a 32-point loss against Wisconsin.
In addition to that, Northwestern could potentially have a tougher challenge, as leading-scorer John Shurna is questionable with a concussion, which was suffered in Wednesday's game.
The odds are stacked against the Wildcats, but a win isn't out of the question. Could Saturday be a day to remember, or will it be another bump in the road.
The Wildcats and Buckeyes squared off just once last season. Ohio State pulled a 76-55 win over Northwestern in their January meeting. In that game, John Shurna led all scorers with 22 points.
KEY FOR THE WILDCATS: Drew Crawford
With John Shurna's status uncertain for Saturday's game, Drew Crawford needs to have a huge performance. Regardless of if Shurna plays, Crawford needs to rise to the challenge against the nation's top team.
Crawford has shown flashes of brilliance during the past few games, but that has not remained consistent throughout the game. If Northwestern wants to hang with the Buckeyes, Drew Crawford needs to scorch the nets.
KEY FOR THE BUCKEYES: Jared Sullinger
This is too easy of a pick. What more can be said about Jared Sullinger? At 6'9, 280-lbs., the freshman forward is as dominating as they come. Sullinger has averaged 17.8 ppg and 10 rebounds in the first 21 games of his collegiate career.
The Buckeyes go as Sullinger goes, which easily explains their 21-0 record this season. It will not be easy to slow down Sullinger.
KEY FOR A WILDCAT WIN: Defense
Ohio State will present the Wildcat's toughest challenge by far this season. The Buckeyes feature four scorers in double-figures, led by freshman phenom Jared Sullinger. With the odds stacked against them, Northwestern needs to give their finest defensive effort yet.
The Wildcats have to play mistake-free on defense. This has not been an easy task. If the Wildcats play a perfect game defensively, they can slow down Sullinger and the Buckeye scorers. But will that be enough?