EVANSTON, Ill. — Thanks in equal parts to some foul trouble, an injury and a need to shake things up, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann got a little creative with his lineups Sunday at Northwestern.
The result was a 71-59 win against the Wildcats that came after a stretch of six losses in seven games that had the Buckeyes headed to the basement of the Big Ten. It also gave them a few options to look at entering a home game Saturday against Indiana and beyond.
Here’s how it unfolded.
• For a second straight game, Holtmann went with a starting lineup of CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson. After being outscored 16-7 in 8:21 of a three-point home loss to Minnesota last Thursday, it was another tough start for this group. Holtmann made three changes only 2:47 in with D.J. Carton, Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell replacing Walker, Muhammad and Young, respectively.
It was a 4-0 Northwestern lead at that point, and Ohio State had missed three shots and turned it over twice.
• This lineup of Carton, Washington, Liddell and the Wesson brothers had played together for 3:49 in Big Ten play, all of that coming in a loss at Penn State two games ago. It didn’t immediately make things better and was outscored 5-2 in 1:53 before the first media timeout at 15:20.
• Young checked back in here to give Kaleb Wesson a break, but it didn’t last long. Liddell committed his second turnover of the game and was replaced by Kaleb Wesson after 53 seconds with the score at 9-4.
• This lineup of Washington and Carton in the backcourt with Young and the Wessons played until the under-12 media timeout and was outscored 6-4 during that 2:46 stretch.
• Here was where Ohio State started to dig in. With 11:37 left in the half and Northwestern ahead 15-8, Holtmann made three substitutions and went with a lineup of Walker and Washington in the backcourt, Justin Ahrens on the wing and Liddell and Kaleb Wesson down low. This produced an 8-2 run in the next 2:59 that briefly gave Ohio State a lead. This lineup had appeared together for 1:03 all season and had been outscored 4-0.
• Muhammad checked back in with 6:59 to play and the score tied at 19 as part of a lineup that also included Walker, Ahrens and the Wessons. It lasted for 1:03 and got four free throws from Andre Wesson on one possession before Young replaced Kaleb Wesson and Washington replaced Ahrens with 5:56 left in the half and the Ohio State lead at 23-20.
• In 1:44, this lineup built the lead to 30-23 on a 7-3 run. Then Carton replaced Walker and hit a three-pointer before Northwestern called timeout with the Buckeyes lead up to 10 and Walker came back in for Carton after a 27-second shift.
• It was still a 10-point lead at 36-26 when Kaleb Wesson replaced his brother to complete a lineup of Walker, Washington, Muhammad and Young. Northwestern used a 6-2 run to pull within six before Holtmann made offense-defense subs for the final 1:16, putting Ahrens in for offense and Muhammad in for defense. At the half, it was a 38-35 lead after the Wildcats closed on a 9-2 run.
• Holtmann kept with his starters for the second half. This time, they lasted for 3:51 and traded three-pointers before Ahrens replaced Kaleb Wesson at 16:09 after the big man picked up a third foul with the lead at 41-38. This lineup had never been used before this season.
• It would only last for 18 seconds, though, because Muhammad subbed out at the under-16 media timeout and did not return for the remainder of the game. Walker also headed to the bench, and a never-before-used lineup of Carton, Washington, Ahrens, Andre Wesson and Young took the floor for a true small-ball type of lineup. In 2:01, it scored two points and allowed five as Northwestern took a 44-43 lead.
• Kaleb Wesson returned in place of Young with 13:50 to play here, and the result was a 9-2 run for the Buckeyes that pushed the lead to 52-46 and forced Northwestern to call timeout with 11:48 to play.
• The junior then picked up a fourth foul with 7:35 to play and the lead at 57-51. He was replaced by Carton and did not return until the final minute. The lineup of Walker, Carton, Washington, Liddell and Andre Wesson was outscored 4-2 in 2:28 before Young replaced Liddell with 5:08 to play and the lead at 59-55.
• This was the lineup that sealed the game for Ohio State. Walker, Washington, Carton, Andre Wesson and Young played the next 4:12 and outscore Northwestern 10-4 to push it out of reach.
• The Buckeyes have used an average of 20 lineups in their last three games: 21 at Penn State, 19 against Minnesota and 20 against Northwestern. It’s the most varied stretch of games all season.
• Ohio State used a two-guard lineup with Washington on the ball and Carton off the ball for 9:45 of this game, just shy of 25% of the total minutes. It scored 19 points and allowed 18 with the duo comprising the backcourt.