Four times the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers have played on the hardwood, and four times the Buckeyes have picked up a win. Tonight, the Buckeyes added a fifth with a 70-44 win in Columbus to start Big Ten play. As usual, DeShaun Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and 7 rebounds. He was closely followed today by Lenzelle Smith who picked up 17 points and 6 rebounds. Nebraska’s sharpshooter, Ray Gallegos, picked up 14 points on horrendous 4-17 shooting for the day. Also notable were Aaron Craft’s game high 8 assists, and Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams combining for 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Ohio State started out strong against Nebraska, blitzing out to a quick lead early by attacking the paint and strategically choosing their outside looks. Not surprisingly Nebraska countered by using a 3-2 zone to limit the inside passing lanes. The change effectively slowed the Buckeyes down for enough time for the Cornhuskers to close the score. However, Ohio State closed out the half on a 9-0 run to more than double Nebraska’s score going into the locker rooms.
The Cornhuskers switched back to man defense in the hopes of keeping the Bucks off-balance, but it only served to make the job easier. Ohio State raced out on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the half, effectively ending any chance of Nebraska seriously threatening down the stretch in this one.
This was a good warmup for the next couple games. The Buckeyes have a rough four games ahead of them, so it was good to see the team excited to play a conference game. The effort was promising, and if they can keep it up through the year good things are bound to happen. The next big step, of course, is figuring out the shooting, which hopefully comes sooner rather than later. Lenzelle Smith certainly demonstrated the skill is there tonight, if only he could be consistent about it.
1. Hustle and energy were on display today. It’s amazing what the start of the conference season will do for a team. The Buckeyes came out of the gate playing like their lives depended upon it, and it showed. Good, high-energy defense kept Nebraska down and enabled the Buckeyes to fast-break to the other end and score before Nebraska could set their defense.
2. Amir Williams interior defense. Williams was a little hot and cold all day, but he was generally solid on the interior. He swatted a few shots, and changed more than a few with good positioning on the interior. It’s a promising sign heading into the games that matter in the next two months.
3. Rebounding. The Buckeyes beat Nebraska on the boards, picking up 43 rebounds to the Huskers 32. We’re going to need to see this continue against better teams, but it’s nice to see us dominate the boards against an opponent where we should have the advantage.
1. Perimeter defense. Do I really need to say it? There are simply way too many open looks for the opponents, a trend that seems to never go away. When we do have a guy out on the shooter, they sometimes don’t get their hands up. It would be nice to see this problem go away someday.
2. We still can’t effectively attack the zone. There are two effective ways to attack a zone – get inside of it, or shoot over it. We’ve obviously proven we can’t use the second method this season (at least to this point), but the first method should be available to our excellent passing. Unfortunately, we seem to get confused every time a team switches into the zone, and it takes us between 5 and 10 game minutes to get our heads straight again.
The Buckeyes will next face the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, January 5th in Urbana Champagne. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network at 2:15 PM Eastern Time.