In the teams' first meeting during the 2011-12 campaign, Ohio State senior William Buford made sure there would be no late drama. Buford had a career scoring night, piling up 28 points on 9 of 14 shooting in leading the No. 2 Buckeyes to an 86-54 rout of the visiting Wildcats Wednesday night at Value City Arena.
Buford added nine rebounds – one short of a double double – four rebounds and a blocked shot as Ohio State opened Big Ten play with a win in front of a sellout crowd of 19,049.
"I was just shooting the ball. I was fortunate to knock them down because my teammates were setting great scenes for me," said Buford, who made 5 of his 7 three-point attempts. "My teammates kept telling me to shoot, and I was fortunate to knock them down."
The final score was lopsided thanks in large part to a strong finish to the first half by the Buckeyes. A Davide Curletti three-point basket knotted the game at 13-13 with 12:17 left before Ohio State took command. Ohio State scored 13 unanswered points and outscored NU 28-13 en route to taking a commanding 41-26 lead into halftime.
After Curletti's three, Jordan Sibert answered with a three of his own. Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody immediately called a 30-second timeout, but that did not cool off the Buckeyes. Ohio State extended its lead to 26-13 on a jumper by Deshaun Thomas, a three by Buford, a trey by Sibert and another basket by Buford.
The last score by Buford forced Carmody to call another timeout.
"I was very disappointed with both ends of the court," Carmody said of his team's performance.
Northwestern (10-3, 0-1 Big Ten) cut the OSU lead to as little as 12 points (43-31) early in the second half before the Buckeyes pulled away for the easy victory.
Buford was not the only Buckeye to have a big game. Despite foul troubles that limited him to 22 minutes, sophomore Jared Sullinger recorded a double double with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The standout center looked comfortable on the court and said he "felt a lot better" during the game.
"We're starting to get our timing back, and playing as a team is most important," Sullinger said. "I'm just trying to get my legs under me and trying to get ready for this Big Ten battle."
Sophomore guard Jordan Sibert had his best game as a Buckeye, netting 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting with all of his makes coming from beyond the arc. Thomas was the fourth Buckeye with a double digit point night. He had a deceptively quiet 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting to go with five rebounds and a steal.
While Ohio State had a good night offensively, the Wildcats struggled to find the rhythm that kept the Buckeyes off balance last season. Northwestern's John Shurna and Drew Crawford came into the game ranking first and second in scoring with 19.4 and 18.1 points per game, respectively, but the pair was held to 24 combined points on 9 of 30 shooting against Ohio State.
"They're two great players. They can do it all," Buford said. "They can drive, they can shoot. They get their other teammates open. We just wanted to do our job on them.
"We did pretty decent against them for the most part."
Ohio State improved to 13-1 heading into a key Big Ten battle against Indiana on Saturday night in Bloomington. Thad Matta's team did not look ahead to that game thanks in part to some spirited practices leading up to the rout of Northwestern.
"I felt like the things that we felt were important going into the game, our guys did a good job of executing," Matta said. "Like I told them afterwards, the moral of the story here is we've had some very good practices leading into this game and we actually played like we practiced. I know that was revolutionary to them because I've been saying it every day, but that was what was exciting for me."
- Referees Ed Hightower, Tim Clougherty and Eric Curry called a combined 39 fouls, including 25 in the second half. No player fouled out, however. Four players – Crawford, Luka Mirkovic and Curletti of Northwestern and Sullinger for OSU – finished with four fouls.
- Sibert played with his right middle finger taped up. He said it was because of torn ligaments he suffered practicing against a team manager, but Sullinger said that was an exaggeration. When asked to clarify, Matta said it was a tendon issue.
- Ohio State opened its 100th Big Ten season with a win for the 52nd time.
- The Buckeyes also beat Northwestern for the 110th time, moving to 110-45 all-time against the Wildcats. The win total is the most OSU boasts against any opponent.
- Northwestern has not defeated Ohio State since beating the Buckeyes 83-72 on Feb. 24, 1977 at St. John Arena.
- Sullinger's double double was his seventh of the season and 25th of his career.
- The Wildcats had 11 points off seven first-half Ohio State turnovers but had none on only two OSU turnovers in the second half.