Which lineups did acting coach Jake Diebler use in Ohio State's win against Northwestern?
Ohio State looked different even before it took the court against Northwestern on Sunday evening.
From a roster personnel standpoint, the Buckeyes were essentially full-go. Only Justice Sueing and Seth Towns, both of whom are dealing with long-term injuries, were unavailable against the Wildcats. It was on the coaching staff that Ohio State had a brand-new look, with coach Chris Holtmann and assistant Ryan Pedon both unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols. With the two coaches at their respective houses pacing in front of big-screen televisions, assistant coach Jake Diebler was elevated to acting head coach with fellow assistant Tony Skinn and special assistant to the head coach Mike Netti comprising the makeshift coaching staff.
After the 95-87 win, Diebler said dealing with substitutions and rotations was among the more challenging aspects of the role. With Holtmann and Pedon expected back for Thursday’s game at Wisconsin, here’s a look at what Ohio State looked like against Northwestern.
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Kyle Young returns to the Ohio State starting lineup
*For the first time in seven games, the Buckeyes made a change to the starting lineup. Kyle Young started the game in place of Zed Key, breaking up the lineup of Jamari Wheeler, Malaki Branham, Justin Ahrens, E.J. Liddell and Key that had started the last six games and nine of the first 12 this season. This lineup, with Young in place of Key, entered the night plus-11 for the season (76 points scored, 65 allowed) in 40:56. Most recently, it was plus-5 (15 points scored, 10 allowed) in 6:25 during a 16-point loss at Indiana last Thursday.
*Against Northwestern, this lineup benefitted from E.J. Liddell’s early outburst. Liddell had 17 points during the first five minutes, and the Buckeyes led 19-11 with 14:37 left when Key entered the game in place of Young. Thirty-one seconds later, Meechie Johnson replaced Wheeler with Ohio State ahead 21-12 and 14:06 to play in the first half.
*This lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Branham, Key and Liddell outscored Northwestern 8-2 in the next two minutes before the Wildcats called timeout with the Buckeyes ahead 29-14 and 12:08 to play.
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*Ohio State went with Cedric Russell, Johnson, Branham, Key and Young out of the timeout, and this lineup was outscored 5-2 in the next 1:14. It had played together for 18 seconds entering this game.
*Wheeler replaced Johnson here with 10:52 left and the lead at 31-19, and for the next several minutes the offense slowed as Northwestern chipped away.
*Gene Brown III entered with 7:54 left and Ohio State ahead 34-24. This lineup of Russell, Brown, Branham, Liddell and Wheeler outscored Northwestern 3-2 in 1:31.
*With 4:19 left in the first half and the Buckeyes leading 43-32, Diebler went with a lineup of Ahrens, Branham, Key, Liddell and Wheeler (the starters for the previous six games). It outscored the Wildcats 8-5 in the next 4:03 before calling timeout with 15 seconds left with the lead at 51-37.
*Northwestern got a last-second bucket against a lineup of Brown, Ahrens, Branham, Key and Liddell to set the halftime score at 51-39. This lineup had never been used before.
Buckeyes open second half with same starters
*Unlike the start of the game, though, the Buckeyes didn’t immediately blow past the Wildcats. This time, the starters were outscored 6-4 in the first 3:11 before Key again replaced Young as the first substitution of the half.
*That lineup allowed three points in 52 seconds as Northwestern made it a 55-48 game at the under-16 timeout, where Johnson replaced Ahrens with 15:57 to play.
*For the next 2:31, the lineup of Johnson, Branham, Key, Liddell and Wheeler traded buckets, scored six points and allowed five before Young replaced Liddell with Ohio State ahead 61-53 and 13:26 to play. That lineup was outscored 9-0 during the Indiana game.
*From 13:26-11:09, a new lineup of Johnson, Russell, Key, Young and Wheeler pushed the lead to 65-66 by outscored Northwestern 4-3 in 2:17.
*Ohio State went with a three-guard look consisting of Wheeler, Russell and Johnson from 13:26-9:09. During that time, Ohio State went from a 61-53 lead to a 70-61 lead.
*The Wildcats kept hanging around, and with 4:57 left Ohio State led 84-74 when the Buckeyes went with a lineup of Wheeler, Russell and Branham as guards and Liddell and Young as forwards. It didn’t pull away, but in the next 3:29 it kept pace, scoring and allowing seven points until Johnson replaced Russell with 1:28 left and the lead still at 10 points, 89-79. This lineup had only played 13 seconds together all season and it came earlier in this game.
*The lineup of Johnson, Branham, Wheeler, Young and Liddell took the game down until the 27-second mark, scoring four points and allowing six as Northwestern pulled within 93-85.
Justin Ahrens, Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell appear in two top lineups
*Ohio State had two lineups finish at a team-best plus-8 for the game. The starters outscored Northwestern 25-17 in 8:59, while the lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Branham, Key and Liddell outscored the Wildcats 12-4 in 3:02.
*The lineup of Johnson, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler was outscored 11-6 in 2:06 for the lowest plus-minus rating of the game (minus-5).
*Ahrens and Liddell tied for the best individual plus-minus of the game at plus-13.
*Ahrens now leads the team in four games where he has led or tied for the lead in individual plus-minus with four. Nobody else has more than two.