After Northwestern loss, which Ohio State lineups are working in Big Ten play?

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
The Ohio State Buckeyes sing "Carmen Ohio" following a 80-68 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during Wednesday's NCAA Division I basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Oh. on December 23, 2020.

No. 25 Ohio State will host Nebraska on Wednesday after taking a 71-70 loss at Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes are 7-2 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, which now features a record nine teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25.

After the loss to the Wildcats, let’s look at what lineups worked in that game, which ones didn’t and what that says about the Buckeyes as they prepare for the final game of the calendar year.

*Chris Holtmann went with what is becoming the standard starting lineup of CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young. This marked the seventh time this lineup had started through the first nine games, and it entered Welsh-Ryan Arena having scored 135 points and allowed 91 in 63:35. In Big Ten play, though, it had only played 6:45 during the Rutgers win, scoring 12 points and allowing 13.

*Against the Wildcats, it was a 10-5 opening run for the starters before Musa Jallow and Zed Key replaced Sueing and Liddell, respectively, with 15:13 left. This lineup had emerged during the last two games, playing more than five minutes in the wins against Rutgers and UCLA. Against the Wildcats, it allowed a 5-0 run in 1:18 before Justin Ahrens replaced Walker.

*Ahrens checked out with 12:44 to play and did not return. Holtmann pulled him once Miller Kopp hit a jumper that appeared to have been Ahrens’ defensive responsibility.

*The next lineup to get significant run featured Gene Brown, Seth Towns, Jimmy Sotos, Liddell and Walker. That lineup took the floor with 11:36 to play and the game tied at 14 and, during the next 4:04, eked out a 23-22 lead before Holtmann made three substitutions with 7:32 left in the half.

*In one minute, a lineup of Walker, Sotos, Jallow, Towns and Liddell got a Towns three and Jallow jumper to turn a 32-29 deficit into a 34-32 lead. Towns subbed out for Brown with three seconds left for a more defense-minded look, and Walker then fouled Northwestern’s Pete Nance with less than a second remaining. He hit the free throws, and it was a 34-all game at the break.

*It was back to the starters to open the second half. Again, they had success, building a six-point lead in the first 5:23 before Jallow and Towns replaced Sueing and Young with 14:37 to play and the lead at 47-41. Northwestern got a Ryan Young layup and Key replaced Liddell with 13:52 to play.

*Ohio State was able to build its lead with a lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Liddell and Young – the starters save for Jallow in place of Sueing. This lineup took the floor with 10:42 to play and the lead at 54-52, and in the next 3:02 it outscored the Wildcats 8-3 to push the lead to 62-55 with 7:40 to play when Sueing replaced Jallow.

*That meant the starters were on the floor with 7:40 to play while holding a seven-point lead. To that point, they had outscored Northwestern 23-12 in 10:10, but during the next 3:52 the Buckeyes were outscored 6-2 as the Wildcats pulled within three points at the under-4 media timeout. They were not able to expand the lead.

*Jallow and Towns checked in with 3:48 to play and the lead at 64-61, replacing Sueing and Young. This new lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Towns and Liddell had been outscored 8-2 in 3:17 during the game, and that would continue here as Northwestern put together a 7-2 run to take a 68-66 lead with 1:48 to play as Holtmann called timeout.

*This lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Liddell and Young keyed the comeback against Rutgers last time out by outscoring the Scarlet Knights 25-9 in the final 7:37, but here it pulled within 71-70 before Towns replaced Young with 12 seconds left for the final possession that ended with a Washington miss.

*Ohio State’s personnel for the final 12 seconds: Walker, Washington, Jallow, Towns and Liddell. That lineup ended the game having been outscored 15-4 in 5:36.

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*The lineups are starting to settle a bit. Ohio State has debuted 13 lineup combinations during the last two games after using 14 in the UCLA win. The six new lineup combinations in the Northwestern game marked a season-low.

*The starting lineup of Walker, Washington, Sueing, Liddell and Young is plus-6 (37 points scored, 31 allowed) in 20:47 of Big Ten playing time, numbers lessened by Liddell’s absence for the Purdue game. That same lineup, with Jallow in place of Sueing, is a team-best plus-18 (37 scored, 15 allowed) in 12:18.

*A lineup of Walker, Washington, Ahrens, Sueing and Key was outscored 12-0 in 3:23 against Purdue and hasn’t appeared since. That is the lowest plus-minus rating for a lineup in Big Ten play.

*Two lineups are tied for a team-low minus-11 rating in Big Ten play. The lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Towns and Liddell has allowed 19 points and scored eight in 7:33, while the lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Young and Key has scored six points and allowed 17 in 6:23.

*Liddell has led the Buckeyes in individual plus-minus in each of the last two games. He’s tied with Walker for the most this season (three each), although Walker shared one of his games with a teammate. Nobody else has led the team in more than one game.

*Liddell’s plus-27 rating in Big Ten play is tops on the team, although he didn’t play in the Purdue game due to mononucleosis.

*For the season, Young leads the team in plus-minus at plus-101. He’s the only Buckeye who has had a positive rating in every game.