Value City Arena
The undefeated and third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes return to Columbus for their first home game of their Big Ten Conference slate when they play host Nebraska a little less than 12 hours after the football Buckeyes' season ended in a way we all wishe was different.
While their conference opening game against Purdue wasn't always pretty, the Buckeyes did just enough to escape the unfriendly confines of Mackey Arena unscathed. Junior LaQuinton Ross continued his recent run of excellent play, recording a career-high in points and rebounds in the 78-69 conference play opening win in West Lafayette.
While Ross' play will take the headlines, the senior leadership of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. will make the difference for the Buckeyes come March. The latter two contributed a game-changing 10-2 run in the second half of the contest that put Ohio State in the lead for good, as the Buckeyes held off the Boilermakers, 78-69.
Saturday's opponent, however, on paper anyways, doesn't seem to be much of a challenge for the Buckeyes. Since joining the Big Ten in 2011, Nebraska has not beaten Ohio State, falling by an average score of 71-48. Ohio State enters this one, in fact, 17-point favorites and should they play their game and nothing out of the sorts go down, should have every opportunity to move to 2-0 on the young conference season.
Led offensively by sophomore Terran Petteway, who's scoring 17.5 points per game, the Cornhuskers are 8-5, but have lost two in a row. Much as Ohio State fans have felt the pain of a not exactly up to snuff nationally non-conference schedule, while Big Red's slate is littered with recognizable names, a number of those programs (Florida Gulf Coast, Miami notably) have proven to be shells of their former selves. The perpetually rebuilding Georgia Bulldogs are 149th in Ken Pomeroy (of which head coach Tim Miles is on a break with)'s rankings, for example.
Of the three best teams Nebrasketball's faced, Creighton, Iowa, and UMass, the Huskers only found a way to stay competitive with the latter two. Nebraska has the resolve and makeup to dig deep and play with OSU, but doing so for 40 minutes would probably be asking too much. Pending complete disinterest on Ohio State's part or one of the worst games of the Thad Matta era, Ohio State athletics should be able to get back into some positive news a whole lot sooner rather than later.
Numbers to Know
Ohio State has not allowed an opponent to reach 70 points this season. The 14-game streak to open the season is the longest since 2010-11, when the Buckeyes held their opponents below that benchmark in 22 straight games.
Ohio State has won 51 consecutive home games against unranked conference opponents. The last unranked Big Ten foe to knock off the Buckeyes at home was Minnesota in 2005.
Nebraska has lost eight consecutive road games dating back to last season. The Cornhuskers have also dropped eight consecutive games to the Buckeyes.
Cast of Characters
Amir Williams is coming off a food allergy that he's apparently on medication for now that in part (along with foul trouble) rendered him ineffective against the Boilermakers. Coming off helping to allow a career day for A.J. Hammons, the much improved Buckeye big should have a solid chance to get back on track against Nebraska big Walter Pitchford.
LaQuinton Ross imposed his will against Purdue, and Ohio State is 1-0 in B1G play for it. With no less than 15 points in his last 5 games, Ross has either become the player many expected him to be or he's certainly just on the precipice of doing so.
The straw that stirs the drink for the Huskers, the 6-6 forward from Galveston, TX and Texas Tech transfer is averaging 17.5 points per game and scored an impressive 21 against a very good Creighton Blue Jays team.
Plan B for the Huskers' offense, Shavon Shields has good size at 6-7 but is a little on the lean department, listed at 219 pounds. Still, the sophomore shoots at a solid clip, hovering around 42% this year. He also proved he could score against a top team putting up 22 himself against Creighton in a losing effort.