The Buckeyes welcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Columbus for the first OSU home game in the Big Ten this season. Through the first half, the Huskers gave as good as they got, sticking with the Buckeyes before falling apart late in the first half as the Buckeyes claimed a 84-53 victory. The Buckeyes were led in scoring by Amadeo Della Valle, who both scored 15 points on 5/5 shooting, 3/3 from beyond the arc. Joining him in double digits were Marc Loving and Shannon Scott with 13, LaQuinton Ross with 11, and Amir Williams with 10. For Nebraska, Terran Petteway tied ADV in scoring with 15, followed by Leslee Smith with 11.
The game started sluggishly for both squads in this early Saturday matchup. Neither team found much easy success against the opponents defense, except when a breakdown occured after a long rebound sequence. Ohio State’s issue, continuing from their game against Purdue, was the inability to buy a basket early, struggling with their shooting from all areas of the court, including free throws.
Despite Nebraska missing their big 7-1 boomer in the paint, Sergej Vucetic, due to the flu, the Huskers were not afraid of attacking the paint. They worked hard getting the ball low, and fought hard on the box-outs to earn themselves tough offensive rebounds. By being patient and taking what was available against the gritty OSU defense, Nebraska earned themselves a four point lead before the second TV timeout.
It helped Nebraska significantly that the Buckeyes seemed lethargic and uninterested in the game. While the defense was there, it didn’t have the same energy that they usually execute with. This reflected on the offensive end too, with sloppy shooting, and half-hearted motions. Finally, a little bit of intensity on the defensive end flipped Sam Thompson’s offensive switch, spurring him to score four unanswered points – his first in Big Ten play this season.
It was Aaron Craft who got the juices finally flowing for the Buckeyes, as if you expected anything different. Two straight plays leading to steals, led to big Buckeye baskets, including a three pointer from LaQuinton Ross to put Ross on the scoreboard. That spurt gave the Buckeyes their biggest lead of the game. It was quickly taken away by a Nebraska three pointer, but the surge was great to see from a team that was playing with less than no energy.
The surge didn’t last long, but it helped make a difference in the complexion of the game late in the first half. Nebraska simply wasn’t ready to go away in this one, clinging by their fingernails to a small score differential. But with less than a minute on the clock, the Buckeyes started to pick up the pace again. Having been up only three, an Aaron Craft three pointer made it six, and the Bucks put on a defensive show, collecting four points after completely shutting down the Husker’s on the offensive end.
Coming out of the half, both teams attempted to get their game going, but neither was willing to give an inch. The result was that for the first few minutes, the teams traded baskets and weren’t able to make any headway. But then LaQuinton Ross got his shot unbottled. Hitting two straight three pointers, separated only by a Shannon Scott triple miss, Ross put the Bucks up 16 by the first timeout break in the second half. Finally the game seemed to be going the Buckeye’s way.
Things seemed to level out when the Buckeyes hit 20, with the Huskers doing just enough to keep things interesting. Part of what was helping Nebraska keep this game from running out of control was their rebounding. They were outrebounding the Buckeyes nearly 3-2 all game, and had 8 offensive rebounds to the Buckeyes 2 through the first 30 minutes of the game. It also helped that Ray Gallegos, who hit two three pointers early in the game, remained stymied through the rest of the game. He remains one of Nebraska’s dangerous sharpshooters, but has struggled with his game of late.
The Buckeyes ended the game shooting 27-50 (54%) from the floor, and 9-19 (47.4%) from beyond the arc, along with 21-29 (72.4%) from the charity stripe. Nebraska responded with 21-57 (36.8%), 4-15 (26.7%), and 7-12 (58.3%) respectively. By the end of the game, the rebounding numbers came out even for both teams, at 33, but the Buckeyes beat the Huskers on assists (14-7), steals (7-3) and blocks (5-1).
The Buckeyes will next play the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday, January 7th. You’ll be able to see the game on ESPN at 9 PM Eastern Time.