The Buckeyes are hoping to get back on the winning track versus Nebraska after a rough opening to the meat of conference play. Unfortunately, road wins tend to be harder to come by.
That goes double for this conference.
Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have now lost three games in a row at Michigan State, at home against Iowa, and at Minnesota. That murderer’s row wasn’t considered to be the toughest stretch in the conference slate, which does not bode well for the remainder of the season. This is also the first time Matta has lost three games in a row since 2008-2009, when games at Wisconsin (55-50), at Northwestern (72-69), and at home against Illinois (70-68) got the Buckeyes. That year was also the last time Fran McCaffery got the better of Thad Matta, as the Buckeyes fell to Siena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now that we’ve gotten the doom and gloom out of the way, it’s time to talk about the positives. The Buckeyes have been playing terrible basketball the last three games. The turnover numbers alone for Scott and Craft (26 in three games) are appalling, and the team as a whole have committed 51 in the same span. This is not typical Thad Matta basketball, and I’m sure he’s working hard to get the problems cleared up.
“Wait, I thought you said the doom and gloom was over?”
It is. Despite the fact that the Bucks are playing basketball best reserved for your local pickup game, they have been in every single game they’ve lost this season. Consider that they took Michigan State to overtime in the Breslin Center, the Iowa game could have gone either way until the momentum shifted Iowa’s way at the end, and the same with Minnesota. These were the 7th, 28th, and 30th teams in the RPI. The Buckeyes are playing far better basketball than it appears on the score sheet.
Now, Nebraska’s RPI is currently 82nd in the nation, which makes them by no-means a world beater, but they’re still not slouches. While the Bucks handed them their heads by 31 the first time around, a lot of that showed up late in the second half. Things were much more tight early in the ball-game, and OSU had only put together a 10 point lead at the break. Since home court is worth roughly 10 points, this may be a closer game than most fans would like. Expect it to be a tough battle, especially with the Buckeyes still cleaning up their problems, and Nebraska being given the answer key to beating the Scarlet and Gray (play zone, play zone, play zone, play man, play zone, play zone….).
Keep in mind, the last two games Nebraska have played were close losses to Michigan at home (71-70) and Purdue on the road (70-64). Yes, you read that correctly, Nebraska lost by a single point to the same Michigan team that just beat #3 Wisconsin in Madison. If there is any doubt that you shouldn’t be taking the Husker’s lightly, that should now be dispelled. Immediately.
The key names to watch out for in this one are Terran Petteway (F, 6-6, 209) and Leslee Smith (F, 6-8, 255). Despite their lack of size, they play well in the paint for Tim Miles. The Bucks struggled with them a bit early in the game, and allowed the pair to score 26 points for the Huskers. Both players tend to average in double figures in scoring, but can be limited in rebounding if they are boxed out properly. Oh, can someone make certain to remind Matta to practice box outs? Thanks.
The other name to be worried about is Ray Gallegos (G, 6-2, 182). Gallegos is a streaky three point shooter that is hitting just shy of 40% of his attempts from long range this year. He hit exactly that against the Buckeyes (2-5) and against Michigan (4-10). Nebraska does best when Gallegos is scoring in the double digits in points. It is important for the Buckeyes to limit his touches, and more importantly limit his shooting. If Gallegos starts lighting up, which he tends to do at home, take cover.
The Buckeyes and Huskers will play in Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday, January 20th. You’ll be able to see that game at 7:00 PM Eastern Time on the Big Ten Network.