The 6-8 senior scored 18 points for Ohio State Wednesday evening, falling just two short of his career-high in a 59-50 Buckeye victory against a pesky Northwestern team in Evanston, Ill. Oden, meanwhile, took over the game in the second half en route to 17 points and a career-best 17 rebounds just days after scoring a career-high 29 points against Iowa.
The Wildcats closed to within two points, 43-41 late in the second half, but a 16-9 run closed out the win for Ohio State who returns to Columbus for a 9 PM nationally televised game with Michigan State Saturday night.
Ohio State fell behind on the road Wednesday because of turnovers and Northwestern making five of their first nine shots from 3-point range. After trailing 20-11 early, Harris got the hot hand propelling the Buckeyes to a 12-0 run and also showing why he's nicknamed the "microwave."
Harris was 7-of-9 from the field including 2-of-4 from behind the arc. He also added seven rebounds.
Senior Tim Doyle was the thorn in Ohio State's side. The 6-5 forward shot 7-of-11 from the field and had a game-high 15 points. Both Sterling Williams and 6-11 center Vince Scott made three 3-pointers for the Wildcats.
Aside from the final 9-point margin for the Buckeyes, only once did Ohio State hold a bigger lead when they stretched out to a 38-28 lead early in the second half.
Jamar Butler added 9 points for Ohio State.
What Ohio State Did Wrong:
* The 2-3 zone defense that drew the praise of Ohio State head coach Thad Matta last Wednesday night against Northwestern in Columbus didn't quite draw rave reviews this time around. The Buckeyes bailed out of the zone just halfway through the first half after the Wildcats were hitting from outside due to hot shooting and lackluster rotation by Ohio State. It also did not seem Ohio State's zone was as active as last time nor did they extend it beyond the perimeter as they did in Columbus.
* In both zone and when helping off in man defense, the baseline corner has been a problematic area for Ohio State this season. Usually this is caused by simply falling asleep defensively or not hustling back to someone's man when the ball enters the corner.
* It was feast or famine for Ohio State with the ball in their half-court offense. There were times Ohio State did not attack the 1-3-1 zone defense like they did last Wednesday and then there were others when Ohio State was too adamant on getting to the rim. A small but constant issue for the Buckeyes have been the lack of willingness to take a mid-range jump shot. Daequan Cook looked paralyzed Wednesday against the zone and Mike Conley was unusually out of control at times. Northwestern did a good job not leaving Oden alone for an easy dish under the basket, but many opportunities were available for a jump shot. When they weren't, Ohio State often dribbled right into traffic.
* Ohio State had some opportunities to score in transition but almost every time they slowed down. Against a tough defensive team such as Northwestern, it's imperative you force the tempo when you have the opportunity so you don't get into the kind of grind-out slow-it-down game the Wildcats would like to play.
* Watching Ron Lewis shoot the ball now as opposed to back in November, it does not seem he has the same release. This could partially explain his shooting woes in recent weeks. Before he had a higher, more fluid release. Now it seems like Lewis is guiding the ball too much.
* If you're looking for a knock on Oden, who is human after all, perhaps it's that he should not attempt to put the ball on the floor as much against a double and triple team. Without the brace, he will more often get away with dribbling in the paint, but the combination of three people around him and the stiff brace on his right wrist make him somewhat clumsy with the ball. By March, this problem will likely be less an issue, perhaps non-existent.
* Freshman David Lighty continues to suffer from doing too much. Lighty has been a prime example of not settling for the open 10-foot jump shot instead of committing a charge under the hoop.
What Ohio State Did Right...
* If there was any doubt as to how good Oden can be, look no further than the last 10 minutes. Needing a pick-me-up to avoid a possible upset in Evanston, Oden was nearly unstoppable once he had the ball within 10 feet of the basket. Oden had several key offensive rebounds late in the game and finished on multiple possessions when Ohio State needed a basket.
* Harris' hot hand came, not coincidently, by getting some open looks early and squaring his body up to the basket. When Harris makes his first one or two shots, he usually can carry a team.
* Northwestern got their wish, in part, but drawing Oden away from the basket once the Buckeyes switched to the man-to-man defense. However, Ohio State did not allow many easy backdoor layups and took away the give-and-go and high-low action that the Wildcats have executed against them in the past.
* Despite just 9 points, it was another small step in the right direction for the 6-1 Butler. Slowly, Butler is developing in his new role off the ball. Wednesday evening, Butler was just 2-of-7, but he did not hesitate to take shots on key possessions.
When ESPN's College Gameday heads to Columbus Saturday, it's Ohio State's chance to get their first big win on the national state this season. The Michigan State Spartans have been playing much better in recent weeks, despite their 0-2 start to the Big Ten to begin January.
The Spartans have mainly been a two-trick pony with guard Drew Neitzel and freshman forward Raymar Morgan. That said, they're getting much better contributions from frontcourt players Goran Suton, Marquise Gray and a more consistent presence from wing Maurice Joseph.
Last season, Michigan State handed the only Big Ten home loss of the year for the Buckeyes - a hair-pulling double overtime affair. Although the Buckeyes avenged that loss with a win in East Lansing later in the year, with College Gameday in town, Ohio State would like to win this one.
The bottom line when playing Northwestern is discipline and survival. They've made many teams look less than adequate, but players need to quickly erase their memories after such an ugly game.
When Michigan State rolls around, the names and faces might be different but the Green jerseys remain the same. Don't be fooled, both teams need this win.