In Northwestern performance, Seth Towns shows glimpse of Ohio State future

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Seth Towns is slowly working his way into Ohio State's rotation.

In his return from knee surgery, Seth Towns has tried to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, it got him onto the court for a Dec. 19 Ohio State debut that was a lifetime in the making for the Northland graduate.

That was one step. The next came four days later, when Towns scored his first four points for the Buckeyes during an upset of No. 11 Rutgers that also marked his Value City Arena debut.

Then came another step, and it was one that gave perhaps the biggest glimpse into how many he might still have ahead of him this season. In what would be a 71-70 loss at Northwestern on Saturday, Towns connected on three three-pointers, all during the first half, to chip in 11 points off the bench.

Ultimately, the goal is to have that type of production on a consistent basis. Whether that will happen this season or perhaps not until next year remains to be seen. If nothing else, it showed what kind of weapon a healthy Towns can be for an Ohio State team that entered Wednesday’s home game against Nebraska shooting a league-worst 22.2% from three-point range during Big Ten play.

“My body feels OK,” Towns said after the loss. “I’ve still got to work on getting better at defense and reactionary things but I’m starting to feel a lot better, which is a testament to all the work I’ve put in since my surgery. This may be more of a mental battle than a physical battle.”

When Towns appeared against UCLA in a game at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, it marked his first Division I action since he played 24 minutes for Harvard in the 2018 Ivy League championship game. After playing six minutes against Rutgers, Towns logged 17 minutes against Northwestern and was critical enough to be on the court for Ohio State’s final offensive possession.

When the Buckeyes got the ball to Duane Washington Jr. with about 10 seconds remaining and Northwestern ahead by one, the plan for was for the junior guard to drive the right block and either get a layup or kick it to a waiting Towns in the wing.

A waiting Towns, who had gone 1,021 days in between made three-pointers.

“That’s a great look,” Towns said of Washington’s drive. “Nearly uncontested at the rim. We just didn’t execute. Everything worked out how coach drew it up, but it just didn’t fall for us.”

Coach Chris Holtmann has consistently tempered expectations for Towns’ first season with the Buckeyes. It’s unclear how much production Towns will be able to consistently provide this season as he works his way back into form.

On Saturday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena, however, it was also clear that Towns was eating into some of the minutes Cal transfer Justice Sueing has enjoyed through the early part of his first season of eligibility with the Buckeyes.

Eventually, the two are different enough that they can and will play significant minutes together. Against Northwestern, though, Towns’ shooting got him on the court – he finished 3 for 4 from three, while the rest of the Buckeyes combined to miss 15 of their 16 attempts.

“In this particular game we needed Seth’s shooting and skill,” Holtmann said. “Oftentimes we’ll play them together, we just ended up playing (Towns) and Musa (Jallow) together more in this game.”

Again, progress. Towns said as much afterward, but the points aren’t really what matter just yet.

“Seeing a couple shots fall is good,” Towns said. “Honestly, I’m more concerned with how I’m moving and my mobility on the court, which has been feeling better every game.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy