Ohio State used a run late in the first half and an early run in the second half to pull away from Nebraska and win 84-53.
It was the type of well-rounded scoring effort that has embodied the Buckeyes this season, with no one scoring over 15 points but with five players in double figures. Amadeo Della Valle led the team in scoring with 15 points on five perfect shots from the field. Marc Loving also contributed 13, as the Buckeye bench outscored the Cornhusker bench 38-12. Ohio State only turned the ball over seven times -- second fewest of their season -- including another goose egg there by Aaron Craft, who still hasn't turned the ball over in Big Ten play. Overall, Craft scored nine points, had four assists, three rebounds, and three steals. Just another day at the office for him.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has always said that the most important stretch of a basketball game is the final five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half. Today was a perfect example of that. Ohio State used an 8-1 to end the first half and a 16-6 run to start the second half en route to taking an 18 point lead.
Nebraska actually got out to an early lead before collapsing. Going into the 12 minute TV timeout, Nebraska was leading 14-10 behind two threes by Ray Gallegos. Then the Ohio State defense started to lock in. The turning point seemed to be two consecutive steals by Craft at around the seven minute mark, leading to five quick points. As usual, the Buckeye defense translated into better offense, as they scored 11 points off of nine turnovers in the first half. Scott's eight points, including two threes of his own, as well as Craft's defense paced the Buckeyes in the first half.
The run early in the second half was led by Williams, who was a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Williams' six points on offense were important, but it was his early defense in the paint that frustrated the Cornhuskers and made them begin to settle for lazy, contested jumpers over the suffocating Ohio State perimeter defense. Nebraska went the final eight minutes without a field goal, only scoring two points during that span. The 16-2 run to end the game by Ohio State after the game was already decided made the final score look a bit worse than it actually was.
Terran Petteway led the challenge from Nebraska, with 15 points and four rebounds. Leslee Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Overall, Nebraska is certainly not a tournament team. They've lost pretty handily to every potential tournament team they've faced so far -- all on the road. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them surprise someone at home. They've played far better in their new Pinnacle Bank Arena, and this team showed off a high talent level in the first half. Petteway in particular is going to probably make money playing basketball somewhere in a couple of years.
For Ohio State, this was just another ho-hum performance. High-level defense, well-rounded offense, and a great intensity level. They'll need to keep doing that if they want to win their next game. On Tuesday, the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing for a game against Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans. It will be a knockdown, knuckle-dragging slugfest between two teams that pride themselves on defense. Michigan State came into the season as the Big Ten favorites, but it seems like Ohio State and Wisconsin have usurped them after the non-conference season. Look for Michigan State to come out wanting to make a statement, and Ohio State will need to match that intensity level.
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