Ohio State entered tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, their longest this season since Big Ten play started. The Buckeyes knew that keeping that streak going wasn’t going to be easy as they had to face Nebraska in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers came into tonight’s game in second place in the Big Ten and on a three game winning streak against the Buckeyes, all three wins being fairly comfortable ones.
Nebraska got out to an early lead; hitting three of their first four shots to take a 6-0 lead three minutes into the game. Ohio State responded though with a seven point run to go up 7-6 just a bit more than three minutes later. At this point an intense back-and-forth battle started with the two teams trading baskets and the lead for the next eleven minutes with neither team able to take more than a two point lead. That narrow margin was broken when the Cornhuskers scored 5 straight to take a 23-19 lead with a minute left in the half. The Buckeyes would briefly narrow that lead back to a single basket but then Nebraska hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to give themselves a 25-21 lead going into intermission.
Neither team did a great job of shooting in the first half with Ohio State hitting 29% of their shots while Nebraska hit 32%. Turnovers were a big problem for the Buckeyes though as they committed 8 in the half which lead to a dozen points for the Cornhuskers while OSU failed to capitalize on any of Nebraska’s 6 turnovers. Tayler Hill had a phenomenal first half, scoring 15 points and grabbing 5 rebounds while also playing some great defense on Cornhusker star Jordan Hooper. While fouls didn’t play a big role in the first half, Hill and Ashley Adams each picked up two fouls which raised the specter of possible problems in the second half.
As they did in the first half, Ohio State got off to a slow start in the second half, allowing Nebraska to score the first six points to take a 31-21 lead three minutes into the period. OSU responded with a pair of baskets to make it a six point game only to watch the Cornhuskers fire right back with 9 unanswered to take a 42-27 lead with twelve and a half to play. From that point on there was pretty much know doubt in the outcome as Nebraska’s tough defense prevented Ohio State from putting anything resembling a run together as the Cornhuskers cruised to a 58-39 win.
Ohio State’s shooting woes from the first half only got worse in the second half and the Buckeyes finished the game shooting 25% from the field and 19% from three point range. The Buckeyes did cut down on turnovers, committing only 4 in the second half to finish the game with 12 but when you can’t make shots taking care of the ball doesn’t matter all that much. Nebraska’s shooting wasn’t anything to be proud of, 33% from the field and 29% from beyond-the-arc, but the Cornhuskers dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Buckeyes 50-37 and own a 17 to 6 edge in offensive boards.
Tayler Hill scored 20 points, a game high, and grabbed 7 rebounds. No other Buckeye really could get anything going in terms of scoring; Amber Stokes and Raven Ferguson were tied for second on the team in scoring with 6 points each. Ashley Adams grabbed 9 rebounds but only scored 4 points and only took 5 shots in the entire game.
Ohio State played an okay first half and looked like they would have a chance to pull off a big upset. Unfortunately in the second half the Buckeyes were undone by awful shooting, which has been a problem for the past two weeks, and bad rebounding, which has been a problem for almost two seasons now. Early in the game the Buckeyes were taking good shots but they just weren’t falling, as the game set in frustration set in and the shot selection started to suffer. As the problems continued the team looked lost and Tayler Hill looked like the only one on the team that was really willing to do anything offensively. Amber Stokes and Raven Ferguson did put some shots and tried to help a bit but the frontcourt pretty much disappeared on the offensive end.
Tonight’s loss was one of the most embarrassing offensive performances from an Ohio State team that I can remember, and possibly was the worst, and it dropped the Buckeyes to 14-11 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten. All momentum from their three game winning streak is gone and once again OSU doesn’t appear to have any answers about how to turn their season around. There isn’t much time for Coach Foster and the players to find answers either as there are only four games remaining in the regular season. If OSU wants to make the NCAA tournament they will have to win all four of those games and at least make it to the title game of the Big Ten tournament, hopefully beating either Penn State or Purdue in the tournament to give themselves a win against a top 25 opponent.
Ohio State will get the weekend off to try and figure things out, a good thing, before they host Minnesota in a must win game next Thursday, well they are all must win games at this point.