A number of losing streaks were ended in Lincoln on Monday night, but for Ohio State it was all the wrong streaks that were ended. Nebraska hadn't beaten a ranked team in 15 games, and also had failed to defeat Ohio State in their last nine meetings. Since joining the Big Ten three years ago, Nebraska hadn't beaten Ohio State in their six previous matchups, including losing a 84-53 decision in Columbus just 16 days ago. All those streaks came to an end with a 68-62 victory for Nebraska over the Buckeyes. Not only did the Nebraska victory give fans an opportunity to storm the court, but it also sent Ohio State into a deeper tailspin. The Buckeyes have now lost four straight games for the first time since the 2007-08 season, and are digging themselves an even bigger hole in the deep Big Ten Conference.
The first half for the Buckeyes was one of the ugliest in recent memory. Nebraska looked like the better basketball team on the floor in Lincoln through 20 minutes and just looked like they wanted the game more. The highlight for the Cornhuskers was a 13-0 run towards the end of the half that pushed the lead to 34-20. The final bucket during that run came from a Leslee Smith steal that led to a layup that forced Thad Matta to take a timeout, but that didn't stop the crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena from rocking during the break in the action.
The Buckeyes got a Shannon Scott layup off a steal with just under a minute to play, and then LaQuinton Ross hit a couple free throws after drawing a foul on the perimeter with a couple seconds left to make the halftime score 34-25 in favor of Nebraska. Ohio State finished the first half shooting only 32% from the field, and turning the ball over seven times. Nebraska matched the seven turnovers by the Buckeyes, but more than made up for it by shooting over 55% from the field. The biggest story of the first half was Nebraska's domination in the paint, outscoring the Buckeyes 26-6 on the inside. A balanced attack by Nebraska built the nine-point lead, with Shavon Shields leading the way with 10 points, but four other Cornhuskers putting in at least five points.
The second half started much like the first half ended, with the Buckeyes eventually completing a 10-0 run that spanned the half, before a Shavon Shields bucket ended the Nebraska drought. Ohio State was able to capitalize on some early Nebraska turnovers to start the half to close the gap. Terran Petteway had a couple early giveaways, and Nebraska as a team racked up five turnovers in the first three minutes. An Aaron Craft layup with 5:15 gone in the second half gave Ohio State a 38-36 lead, which was their first lead since 14-13 with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half. The lead was short-lived though, as Terran Petteway answered with five straight points to again put the Buckeyes behind on the scoreboard.
The teams went back-and-forth on the scoreboard for about six minutes before a Deverell Biggs steal and layup gave the Cornhuskers a 47-46 lead with 4:41 to go. The lead change was the 15th of the game, but would ultimately turn out to be the final one. The Biggs layup sparked a 6-1 run by Nebraska over the next two minutes would create a little bit of space on the scoreboard. The closest that Ohio State would get was 51-49 with just under two minutes to go before a Terran Petteway jumper and parade of Nebraska free throws would put the final nail in Ohio State's coffin.
The leading scorer for the Buckeyes in the game was Aaron Craft, who put in eight of his 12 points from the free throw line late. LaQuinton Ross had gone for 22 points in each of his last two games, but really struggled with his shot tonight. The junior only went 4-12 from the field and only was able to muster 11 points. The best player offensive for the Buckeyes looked to be Sam Thompson, who had a couple dunks on his way to nine points in the game. Turnovers were again a problem for the Buckeyes, with the team committing 13, and now over the past four games Ohio State has committed 64 turnovers. While Craft led Ohio State in scoring, he also was responsible for a team-high four turnovers.
Terran Petteway put in 13 of his 18 points for Nebraska in the second half, which helped to make up for the eight turnovers he committed. Petteway shared high-scoring honors for Nebraska with Shavon Shields, who also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Deverell Biggs was the third Nebraska player reaching double-figures, putting in 11 points of the bench for Tim Miles. The Cornhuskers were able to outwork the Buckeyes on the boards 33-27, which helped to make up for their 18 turnovers in the game. Nebraska shot an even 50% from the field in this game, even with struggling mighily from behind the arc. By hitting only 2-13 from downtown, the only positive coming out of this game for Ohio State is that it will see it's third-ranked three-point field goal defensive percentage get even stingier.
After hitting the road for their last two games, Ohio State will head back home and try to find a way to put an end to their losing streak on Thursday night when they welcome a struggling Illinois team to Columbus. Much like the Buckeyes, Illinois has lost four in a row, and makes Thursday night's game even that more important for both squads. Meanwhile, after playing tonight for the first time in over a week, Nebraska will have a busy rest of the week. A game in State College against Penn State is on tap for the Cornhuskers on Thursday before they return back to Pinnacle Bank Arena to host Minnesota on Sunday.
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