Pat Brennan / Sports editor
Northwestern men’s basketball coach Bill Carmody had trouble recalling Ohio State men’s basketball senior guard William Buford’s class year during a press conference following the Wildcats’ 87-54 Wednesday loss to the Buckeyes.
Members of the press informed Carmody that Buford was a senior.
“Thank God,” Carmody said, rubbing his brow.
Buford scored a career-high 28 points, hauled in nine rebounds and dished out four assists during No. 2-ranked OSU’s victory against unranked Northwestern in the teams’ Big Ten conference opener at the Schottenstein Center.
One might understand why Carmody said he was glad to see the Buckeyes’ lone senior beginning his final tour of Big Ten duty, as Buford shot 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range in the win.
“I know Buford is a very good player,” Carmody said. “He’s looks as good as anyone to me. He can dribble the ball … gets in the lane. (He) gets fouled and goes to the foul line. He’s doing things decisively.”
Buford, who has totaled 68 career points against the Wildcats in six games, said he just let the game come to him in this most recent matchup with Northwestern.
“I was just shooting the ball,” he said. “I was fortunate to be knocking them down and my teammates just kept telling me to shoot.”
Northwestern (10-3, 0-1 Big Ten) kept the score close in the early stages of the game. The Wildcats even held a lead with 14:01 to play in the first half. Buford helped distance the Buckeyes (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) with a 3-pointer that extended an OSU lead to 21-13 at the 10:00 mark in the first half.
Buford smiled widely and celebrated with teammates after the 3-pointer. OSU was on course to take a 41-26 lead into half.
Thanks in part to Buford, the Buckeyes wouldn’t relinquish the lead.
OSU sophomore guard Jordan Sibert said the 2011-12 edition of the Buckeyes rely on Buford when the team can’t find a rhythm.
“We can count on (Buford) now,” Sibert said. “He’s going to be scoring or rebounding. … He finds a way to get things going.”
OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, who scored 17 points in 22 minutes against Northwestern, agreed.
“Will is doing a great job,” Sullinger said. “This year, he’s taken a little bit of leadership upon himself because he’s been through it all. He’s doing a great job.”
After watching Buford drop 28 points on his team during 35 minutes of action, Carmody had only praise for the player, saying, “(Buford’s) stepped up.”
“He’s a senior and he knows what he can do, and he’s doing it.”
OSU continues conference play Saturday at No. 15 Indiana. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m.