After coming off of a brutal loss to Wisconsin on the road less than a week ago, Ohio State basketball responded nicely with a big win against the Michigan State Spartans in the Schott. Prior to that, the Bucks had dropped four consecutive games, some that many of you might not have been able to finish. Thad Matta will hope a win over the Spartans will be just what his team needed to get back into a groove.
Ohio State has been very hot and cold on the basketball court the past year and a half. That lack of consistency has made for some very frustrating games — and some that are a delight to watch when things are actually clicking. Sunday, JaQuan Lyle was in a shooting rhythm, and still gave the Buckeyes six assists.
Typically when he’s going, the team goes, whether that’s scoring, or when he’s dishing out assists like his life depends on it. Scoring across the board was pretty evenly distributed, which is great, because sometimes we never know where it’s going to come from on any given night.
As frustrating as Ohio State’s season has been at times, Nebraska’s has been difficult as well. They’ve particularly had problems out of conference, with losses to UCLA, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Creighton, Kansas, and Gardner-Webb. Some of those are tough games, so regardless of their 9-8 record, they’ve played some of the best that the country has to offer.
They’ve lost two in a row after a four-game win streak that included wins over Indiana and Maryland on the road, and Iowa at home. The first loss came to Northwestern at home, and the second was a six-point loss to Michigan on the road. They’re led by a senior guard in Tai Webster, who has some experience that most college basketball players don’t have, and never will have. They’ve also experienced a key loss, but you’ll read about both of those items a little bit later.
So yes, while it’s Nebraska and the name of the game is basketball, this isn’t a slouch game by any means for Ohio State. The win over Tom Izzo’s team Sunday was great, but it doesn’t mean anything if the Buckeyes can’t follow it up with a win against the Cornhuskers. The prospects of making the NCAA Tournament would look even more bleak with a loss Wednesday.
We’ve seen a fiery Thad Matta not seen as often in the past. Perhaps it’ll put a much-needed spark into the Buckeyes for a late push as we get closer to February and March. First, they’ve got to beat Nebraska.
Numbers to know
The Buckeyes beat Nebraska by three last season when the two teams faced off in Lincoln. It was a game that was quite the nail-biter (to be fair, most of them are) but Ohio State’s team has a very different makeup this season. Most of the key pieces are still intact, but looking at some of the games that Nebraska has played this season, we could be in for another close one.
That’s the number of Nebraska’s Ed Morrow. He’s out indefinitely with a foot injury, and was the Cornhuskers’ leading rebounder until that point. His absence will be a huge plus for the Buckeyes, who are known to have their own issues on the glass at times. He also was a 10 points per game scorer. Without 30, Nebraska is a different team.
Ohio State has one win on the road this season, and it came against Navy in the Veterans Classic. Since then, they’ve lost to Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are going to have to eventually get past that (right?) and get a road victory in the Big Ten. With Nebraska somewhat shorthanded with the loss of Morrow, there might not be a better time to get it going than Wednesday night. It’s not like Ohio State has many other opportunities past that, anyway.
Cast of characters
Williams is the 4th leading scorer on the team. He’s not one of the better rebounders, and will hardly give the Buckeyes an assist based on his role. But he’s always good for the occasional game where he’s just making everything that he throws at the basket, and that’s a pretty dang good fallback option for when everything else falls apart. Hopefully things don’t come to that, but you just never know with this team.
Thompson is somewhat in the same crop as Williams, but in a lesser capacity. He’s nearly averaging a double-double, and legitimately seems like a better player than he was last season. If he’s not playing at least decent underneath the basket, things typically go bad fast for Thad Matta’s team. When he’s playing well, it opens things up for the guards, and it can make for some really exciting offense. He’ll be reaping the benefits of Morrow’s absence.
Webster’s one of the senior leaders on the Cornhuskers’ squad. He’s a native of Auckland, and plays for New Zealand’s national team. He led the team in scoring and rebounding, and that international experience has no doubt been good for him as he leads Nebraska in scoring with over 18 points per game. He’s also bringing in five rebounds and four assists, so he helps in other ways consistently. Expect to hear his name and number called plenty of times Wednesday night as Nebraska’s experienced leader.
The 6’9 forward should be seeing more minutes against the Buckeyes and moving forward with Ed Morrow out. The sophomore has had a pair of double-doubles on the season, with a few more close ones, with nine rebounds in a few contests. Depth is always key in basketball at any level, but can be even greater at the college level because of the greater variation in talent levels across the game. Jacobson’s role on the team should be much greater until further notice.
How to watch
Game time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
TV: Big Ten Network