With the regular season waning, Ohio State has three games left to bolster its resume, one which already includes impressive wins over Indiana and Maryland, which toppled Big Ten leader Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
The Buckeyes helped their cause with a 81-57 obliteration of Nebraska on Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center, which snapped a two-game losing streak that seemed to refute the notion that they had turned a corner with the postseason looming.
Yet on this night, Ohio State looked more like the team that has been relatively impressive in February, which included a span in which it won five of six games.
Questions, though, still seem to linger over the Buckeyes, who lost back-to-back road games before last night. They lost a gritty contest to Michigan State in the final seconds two weekends ago before stumbling to a middling Michigan squad last weekend. The latter display was a far cry from the Ohio State team that had surged back into the top 25 a couple of weeks ago and it raised concerns over whether the Buckeyes have the kind of team that can do damage come March.
Against Nebraska, which lost its sixth straight game, the Buckeyes returned to an old form that made it seem like they had overcome growing pains associated with a sluggish start to Big Ten play.
“If you’re gonna contend here,” said Tim Miles, the Nebraska coach, “you can’t get down early.”
Ohio State jumped out to quick lead that bloated as the game went on. The Buckeyes, which led by as many as 25 points, shot 54 percent and clobbered the overmatched Cornhuskers from buzzer to buzzer.
They got production from a Lazy Susan of scorers, including Jae’Sean Tate, who led the team with 22 points and senior forward Sam Thompson, the high-flying senior forward, who added 15 points. Shannon Scott, the senior point guard, chipped in 13 points and D’Angelo Russell, the star freshman guard whom Ohio State has leaned on throughout the year, had a modest 11 points after being “very, very sick” all week.
“I just think the team buckled down,” Tate said. “We needed this win.”
“All of us have lost games before, all of us have been disappointed before,” Thompson said. “We took it upon ourselves to really set the tone in this game.”
Matta’s club crushed a team it was expected to crush, but what it does against Purdue Sunday and Penn State and Wisconsin the following week will determine where it lands in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
“You feel good, but in the same way that you have to recover from a loss, you have to put the win behind us,” Thompson said.
He added: “Purdue doesn’t care that we won by 25.”