For a moment it looked like Ohio State’s mid-winter trip to Lincoln would be hazardous. The Buckeyes breezed out to a nine-point lead to start the game, but Nebraska, feeding off the energy in a jam-packed Bob Devaney Sports Center, used a 13-2 run to take the lead. The Cornhuskers did not resemble the same team that had lost to Ohio State by a combined 91 points in three games as members of the Big Ten.
Order was quickly restored, though, after the Buckeyes went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game, en route to a 63-56 victory. Ohio State ruled nearly every aspect of the first half, making field goals, converting free throws and creating turnovers.
Ohio State followed through on four and-1 opportunities in the half and scored 10 points off five Nebraska turnovers. That efficiency made the Huskers pay dearly for a relatively small amount of miscues. The Buckeyes also enjoyed a 10-0 advantage in points at the free throw line. In the first 20 minutes, they were a perfect 10 of 10, while Nebraska didn’t even attempt a single shot from the line. It was the third consecutive half Ohio State limited its opponent to zero free throw attempts.
Earlier this week Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said the No. 1 goal for the defense would be limiting Deshaun Thomas. When the two teams met in January, Thomas torched Nebraska for 22 points. He scored 15 in the rematch, but had to shoot 18 times to get there.
Instead, for the second straight road game, a secondary scoring threat helped lift the Buckeyes. Lenzelle Smith Jr. did what Sam Thompson could not do last Saturday at Penn State – completing a perfect shooting display. Smith made all six field goal attempts, including three 3s. He added six free throws for a game- and season-high 21 points.
David Rivers’ 13 points led Nebraska. Dylan Talley added 12 points.
The Buckeyes led by nine at the half and continued to stretch their advantage in the second half. But Nebraska did not go quietly at home. The Cornhuskers trimmed a 15-point deficit to five with 2:38 left in the game. Ohio State clamped down on defense, though, denying Nebraska on three consecutive shots as the Huskers tried to cut the lead to one possession. Ohio State put the game away at the free throw line, making 5 of 6 attempts in the final minutes.
Ohio State finished 23 of 28 from the line while Nebraska was 4 of 5. But the Huskers outrebounded Ohio State, 38-33, including 15-8 on the offensive glass, contributing to 14 second-chance points. For the second straight game, Ohio State’s opponent shot a high number of three-pointers. Nebraska was only 6 of 26 from beyond the arc, but the team was not shy about putting the ball up.
Aaron Craft had one of his best all-around games of the season, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists, two blocked shots and one steal. In the first half, Amir Williams had seven points, seven rebounds and three blocks, but he became invisible after the break, adding just one rebound to his final stat line.
The Buckeyes, what seems like years removed from a humiliating loss at Illinois, are now 17-4 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten. They’ll be tied for second place in the Big Ten after the Michigan-Indiana game due to both teams having one loss.
Ohio State travels to Ann Arbor on Tuesday to face top-ranked Michigan.