Trailing Nebraska 4-3 early in Thursday night's game at the Schottenstein Center, Ohio State senior point guard Shannon Scott grabbed a loose ball from underneath the Buckeyes' basket, sprinted toward midcourt and fired a 50-foot pass in the air that found Sam Thompson for an alley-oop slam.
On the next possession, Scott stepped right in the way of an attempted dribble handoff by the Cornhuskers, nabbed a steal and went the other way for an uncontested layup.
After a Nebraska timeout, Ohio State stole the Cornhuskers inbound pass on their ensuing trip down the floor and D'Angelo Russell fired a pass downcourt to find a streaking Thompson for a one-handed dunk.
It was a quick 6-0 run that eventually turned into a 12-0 run and the Buckeyes never looked back en route to an 81-57 rout on their home floor.
“We executed at a high level and that just comes from practicing hard the last couple days," said freshman forward Jae'Sean Tate, who finished with a career-high 22 points. "We just carried that over to the game and when we run our offense at a fast pace and execute it, nobody can really stop us.”
But it was the early transition game that got things going for an Ohio State team desperate for a win.
The Buckeyes were coming off back-to-back losses for the first time all season after falling on the road at Michigan State and Michigan. Their once-stable NCAA tournament hopes had all of a sudden become questionable.
“When we run our offense at a fast pace and execute it, nobody can really stop us.”– Jae'Sean Tate
On this night, however, Ohio State used a 15-2 edge in fast-break points to finally get back into the win column.
“It’s huge. When we’re running to do what we want to do, that’s huge for us," Thompson said. "You saw Sunday (against Michigan) the byproduct of us not doing that. Our defense dictates our offense.”
Indeed it does.
Ohio State turned 12 Nebraska turnovers into 17 points the other way, many of which came on high-flying dunks or uncontested 3-pointers. The Buckeyes have a long, athletic team and when they can get out in transition it makes the game that much easier.
"It’s easy to talk about and it’s harder to do, but just we got hands on balls and our rotations were pretty good and I thought that the deflections led to some easy baskets for us," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "Guys did a good job of — we told them before the game it was a do both game: You’re going to have to help, you’re going to have to recover, you’re going to have to guard and they did a good job with that.”
The only question now whether or not the Buckeyes can continue to play this way going forward. If it can keep playing fast, get out in transition and create easy scoring opportunities, Ohio State may be able to finish the season strong with three more wins.
"It was a big game for us, it was a big win for us but we’ve gotta keep it rolling now,” Thompson said.