If you're feeling a bit like it's deja vu all over again, it's because we crossed this path once before.
Ohio State (16-3) and Northwestern (11-8, 1-5 Big Ten) meet for the second time within a week. Last Wednesday in Columbus, the Buckeyes cruised to a 73-41 victory against the Wildcats.
One week ago today, the Buckeyes turned up the heat with a 2-3 zone that Thad Matta rarely utilizes, stifling the Wildcats to the tune of 32.7 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers. While Ohio State could not get Greg Oden untracked, as he scored just 5 points and grabbed six rebounds, it was Mike Conley (17 points on 7-of-10 shooting) and Jamar Butler (16 points) that carried the slack.
Although not much has changed in just seven days, the Wildcats do finally have a conference victory to hang on their mantle. A team that was reeling from four Big Ten losses entering last week's game in Columbus notched a 55-40 win against Minnesota on Saturday.
Northwestern is balanced as a team, although they have just two players in double-figures. The Wildcats average 57 points a game led by Kevin Coble, a 6-8 freshman forward who averages 12.1 points a game. Sophomore guard Craig Moore pitches in 10.1 points a game while senior forward Tim Doyle contributes 9.7 points.
Once again, just as they did last week, Northwestern will look to stop the 7-1 freshman Oden. Oden is coming off a career-high 29 points against Iowa. He was an uncanny 12-of-13 from the field and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
The 6-1 junior guard, Butler, has slowly seen his temperature rise for Ohio State. Earlier in the season, the Lima, Ohio native had been stuck with a field goal percentage below 35 percent. However, Butler's recent hot streak over the last three weeks has seen his percentage climb to 41 percent including 41 percent from 3-point range.
If Northwestern again tries a 1-3-1 zone this evening, committing two and three guys to Oden at all times, look for Conley (9.7 points and 6.8 assists per game) to again attack the zone and create other scoring opportunities for not only himself, but open teammates on the wing. Defensively, Ohio State might again look to play some sort of zone, hoping to prohibit the infamous back-door cut from the Princeton-style offense played by Northwestern and their coach, Bill Carmody.
The Buckeyes are hoping to keep pace with conference-leader Wisconsin, who remains undefeated in Big Ten competition. A win by Ohio State would draw them to 5-1 in the Big Ten, with still a rematch with the Badgers later in the year in Columbus.
Who: Ohio State vs. Northwestern
Where: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
When: Tonight, 8 PM ET
TV: ESPN Plus (10TV locally in Columbus)
G Craig Moore (6-3, So.) 10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
G Sterling Williams (6-3, So.) 5.2 ppg
G/F Tim Doyle (6-5 Sr.) 9.7 ppg, 5.5 apg
F Kevin Coble (6-8 Fr.) 12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C Vince Scott (6-11 Sr.) 8.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
G Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) 9.7 ppg, 6.8 apg
G Jamar Butler (6-1 Jr.) 7.9 ppg, 3.8 apg
F Ron Lewis (6-5 Sr.) 12.5 ppg, 45.7 percent field goal
F Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) 9.4 ppg, 38.5 percent 3-point field goals
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) 15.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.8 bpg