The tilt between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, simply put, was not pretty. But the Buckeyes came out on top, 65-62.
It took over three minutes, but Nebraska was on the board first after an Andrew White basket. With a Jae'Sean Tate answer on the other end we had a 2-2 game at the under-16 timeout. The Buckeye offense got off to a very slow start, and looked confused at times.
Nebraska found themselves up 6-2 at the under-12 timeout, with the Buckeyes in the middle of a scoring drought that was nearly five minutes, and resulting in three Buckeye turnovers in that span. When play resumed, the Buckeyes committed yet another turnover, which Nebraska took advantage of, and getting up 8-2.
Jae'Sean Tate broke the Ohio State drought on the ensuing possession, fighting his way underneath the basket for a contested layup. The Bucks went right back to him on the following possession, and it appeared the Buckeyes found a little spark after a huge drought for the first 10 minutes of the first half. Keita Bates-Diop tied the game with a floater in the paint.
The game remained much the same, just a sloppy, strange contest. A pair of Marc Loving free throws gave Ohio State the lead, until Jack McVeigh gave Nebraska the lead back shortly, before a layup by Bates-Diop, and a Loving three. The Buckeyes led 15-13 with under four minutes left in the first half.
The final few minutes of the first half was the most action we had seen all game. The two teams were able to make things happen on offense, trading baskets until a Tim Miles technical foul, that resulted in one made free throw by Marc Loving. The Buckeyes held a lead until Glynn Watson gave the Huskers a 22-21 lead, which they took into the locker room.
The first five minutes of the second half were good to the Buckeyes. They were able to take a 30-25 lead, with Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop scoring all nine of the Buckeye points, five and four respectively. The Buckeyes would expand that lead to 41-30, with JaQuan Lyle scoring 11 consecutive points.
Just as it seemed that Ohio State was going to pull away, Nebraska fired back with a pair of threes from Watson and McVeigh, to make it a 41-36 game with under nine minutes remaining. Keita Bates-Diop silenced the suddenly loud crowd with a basket, only to be answered by Michael Jacobson. Jacobson was fouled by Thompson on the play, fouling out the Buckeyes big man with over seven minutes to go.
After Lyle's outburst was over, Tate and Bates-Diop kept the Buckeyes afloat after Nebraska came storming back. One of the things going in the Buckeyes favor all night was rebounding, and with Thompson fouled out, and Giddens seated with four fouls, it made a difference late.
As the game grew old, and it became somewhat of a game of free throws, Nebraska had trouble converting. The Huskers had many chances down the stretch on the charity stripe, but didn't come up enough. A pair of Loving free throws extended Ohio State's lead to 54-49 after a Nebraska turnover thanks to some Buckeye full-court pressure.
Nebraska took the lead with under a minute remaining after an Andrew White three pointer, and it looked like trouble for the Buckeyes. A pair of JaQuan Lyle free throws tied the game for the Buckeyes, and the game went to overtime after a Mickey Mitchell heave nearly fell.
With the crowd as alive as they had been all game, Marc Loving got the Buckeyes off to a quick start with a basket. The effort on both ends of the floor could be seen by both teams. The two traded baskets, getting the game to 60-apiece with two minutes remaining. The wind was taken out of the Nebraska crowd after a missed Marc Loving three was rebounded by Mickey Mitchell, after three Huskers tapped the ball out.
Nebraska regained the lead after an Ohio State turnover, but would be matched with a Lyle basket. Lyle would give the Buckeyes the lead at 64-62 after a tough shot underneath the basket, giving him 19 points on the night. After a Nebraska miss, and 1-of-2 made free throws, the Bucks came out on top.
3 things we learned:
1. 2nd chance points and turnovers hurt. Both teams didn't look sharp early, but the Buckeyes fared worse from their mistakes than the Huskers did. The Buckeyes had nine first half turnovers, leading to nine points for the Huskers. The sloppy play really brought the Buckeyes down early, and kept them from getting into a groove for the front end of the first half.
The Buckeyes had another seven turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the second half, but only gave up three points off of those turnovers. The free throw shooting woes are expected, and we can accept those for what they are, but the turnovers is something that while difficult, can be controlled. When the Buckeyes are in control, they're a much better team, although the effect may be greatest emotionally than anything. They feed off of momentum, turnovers kill that.
2. Bench scoring is welcome. It's not necessarily an important aspect to every team, but the Buckeyes particularly do better when they get help from the guys on the bench. They were absent in the first half, with no points coming from the Buckeye reinforcements. Kam Williams was unable to find his stroke, and was the only player to even attempt a shot in the first half. They were able to keep it close, but if they give the Buckeyes anything in the first half, they have a lead that they can work with.
The second half, we saw much of the same. Kam Williams was the only player to take a shot in the front end of the second half out of players coming off the bench. JaQuan Lyle made up for this with his burst in the middle of the half, but if Ohio State is going to contend in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, the bench will have to give them something.
3. Postseason status is still up in the air. Ohio State needed this win, not only if they want to make the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT as well. The Buckeyes didn't put on a very convincing show, and with games coming up against Michigan State (one at home and on the road) and Iowa, the Buckeyes are going to have their hands full. At the very least, this win helps their case for the NIT.
Winning two of their last three would go a long way in getting the Buckeyes to the big dance, but their wins against much lesser talent have been less than impressive. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. They wouldn't exactly need a 2008 Georgia type of run, but anything helps at this point when you consider some of the bad losses early.