What a difference three days makes. Thursday Jamar Butler was the only guy that could score for Ohio State and Sunday he’s about the only one that couldn’t.
But despite Butler’s inability to score a single point Sunday afternoon, the 6-1 senior led Ohio State with 11 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds in helping the Buckeyes improve to 2-0 in the Big Ten with a 62-51 victory over Northwestern.
While Butler was 0-of-7 from the field, freshmen Evan Turner, Jon Diebler and Kosta Koufos picked up the slack for Ohio State. Koufos scored 17 points while also notching 12 rebounds as Turner and Diebler added 16 and 15 points respectively.
"They are getting better and have more of an understanding of their role and the competition they are facing game after game," said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. "These young guys have a passion for the game of basektball."
It was a difference of night and day for Ohio State (11-3) as a team from Thursday’s win against Illinois. The Buckeyes were hard-pressed to hit the broad side of a barn just three nights ago, but shot a solid 47.9 percent from the field on Sunday. Ohio State also assisted 16 of their 23 field goals – a far cry from Thursday, where only 10 of 26 baskets went assisted.
Northwestern (5-6) also suffered from a large discrepancy in rebounds. The Buckeyes, usually modest on the boards due to their constant defensive zone this season, dominated the smaller, less athletic Wildcats 46-23 on Sunday.
The Buckeyes jumped out quickly to a 7-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes, and never trailed the rest of the way. However, Ohio State did see a 12-point halftime lead slip away as Northwestern crawled back to 43-39 with 13:40 left in the game.
But as was the case for nearly all 40 minutes, a Buckeye freshman answered.
On the ensuing possession, Butler found Diebler standing in the corner and delivered a bullet to the all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school history. Diebler launched a 3-pointer, draining it while also being fouled in the act. The 4-point play extended the Buckeyes’ lead back to 47-39 and Ohio State rarely saw their lead dip below nine points.
Both Diebler and Turner have seen their production increase while their minutes have held steady. Starting the season as the starting shooting guard, Diebler has since been coming off the bench to Turner whose confidence has sky-rocketed. The two, playing most of the game on the court at the same time, combined on 11-of-18 from the field.
As for Butler, he was fine being the catalyst.
"He was content on running their team," added Northwestern coach Bill Carmody. "He showed that he can hurt you in a lot of different ways. It was an impressive performance."
Craig Moore led Northwestern with 16 points, one of three Wildcats that scored in double-figures. Moore also hit four 3-pointers on 14 attempts.
Northwestern had just 18 field goals, as they shot 31 percent for the game.
Ohio State will remain at home Wednesday, hosting Iowa at 7 PM. The Hawkeyes are coached by first-year man Todd Lickliter – a former assistant for Thad Matta at Butler.
Ohio State is tied with Wisconsin at 2-0 for the Big Ten lead. Four others (Purdue, Penn State, Michigan State and Indiana) are 1-0 thus far this season.