On Saturday, Ohio State (15-13, 5-10) was handed its third-straight loss, this time by Nebraska (12-14, 6-8), 58-57 at the Value City Arena. The victory was the Cornhuskers first-ever win in Columbus.
As has been the pattern for much of this season for Ohio State, the Buckeyes raced out to double-digit leads in both halves, but were never able to create enough distance with Nebraska to feel comfortable.
Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate led the effort in the first half for the home team, and junior center Trevor Thompson took the lead in the second half, but the efforts weren’t enough to cement a victory.
Points were tough to come by for both teams in the game’s first few minutes, as the early frenetic pace had a keystone cops feel to it. At the first timeout, nearly five minutes in, the teams had combined to go 3-12 from the field, yet both had committed three turnovers.
While both teams seemingly got the turnovers under control from there, Ohio State took the early advantage, going on a 7-0 run over a 4:29 period. After a three from the top of the key by junior guard Kam Williams, the Buckeyes took a 20-11 lead with 8:30 remaining before halftime.
The OSU lead was due, in part, to the Cornhuskers’ poor showing from the field. At the under-8:00 timeout, Nebraska was just 5-20 from the floor (1-6 behind the arc), and 0-4 from the free-throw line. For comparison, the Buckeyes were 7-16 (43.8%), including 3-8 from three, and were 3-4 from the stripe.
After the timeout, a Tate layup gave OSU its first double-digit lead at 22-11. After a rough game on Tuesday against Michigan State, Tate finished the first half with 11 points, tied with Nebraska’s senior guard Tai Webster for the half’s high. However, the junior would have more turnovers (4) than points (3) in the second half.
As has become common for the Buckeyes this season, the team went cold from the field in the half’s final minutes. As the Huskers went to a match-up zone, Ohio State was held without a field goal for the final 5:39 of the half; forced to settle for a 30-24 lead heading into the locker room.
The foul troubles that plagued the Buckeyes against MSU earlier in the week weren’t a factor against the Huskers. At the break, the team combined for four, no one had been called for more than one, and late in the game, the Buckeyes had fouls to give just to force free-throws.
The second half had a familiar feel to it as the Buckeyes raced out to a 35-24 lead, but a pair of three-pointers helped Nebraska get the lead back within two possessions at the under-16 timeout. However, right before the media break, Nebraska guard Glynn Watson Jr. picked up his fourth foul. As he headed to the bench, he was the Huskers’ second-leading scorer with eight.
From there, the game continued to ebb and flow, with OSU extending the lead back to nine, before Nebraska going on a 9-0 to tie the game at 43 with 8:45 remaining in the second half.
In the first 11:30 of second half action, OSU’s leading scorer, Tate, was held to a single point. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Thompson picked up the slack, turning in nine in the second half on 4-5 shooting from the field. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
With just less than five minutes remaining in the game, Nebraska’s 6’7 forward Ed Morrow picked up his fifth foul on a suspect reverse layup attempt from Loving. He left the game with 10 points and six boards.
With a minute and a half left, Nebraska’s Jack McVeigh hit a jumper to pull the score to 54-52 in Ohio State’s favor. However, a Marc Loving three-pointer with :30 remaining looked to ice the Buckeye victory, but it wouldn’t be that easy. Just seconds later, McVeigh hit a three of his own, and then Nebraska tied up C.J. Jackson in the back court and got the benefit of the possession arrow.
On the subsequent possession, Watson completed an “and-1” to give Nebraska their first lead since early in the game at 58-57. With 8 seconds remaining, Ohio State had an in-bounds from just inside half court. The play was drawn up to go to Loving, but Tate was never able to get the ball to him, and settled for an out-of-control, off-balance three that drew only iron.
Loving finished the game with 13 points, despite shooting 3-10 from the field.
The basketball Buckeyes will return to action on Thursday when they host the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers. The game tips at 9:00 p.m. EST from Value City Arena, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
3 things we learned:
1. Nothing is easy for this Buckeye team. With Saturday’s loss, the Buckeyes are now 15-13 on the season, including 5-10 in the Big Ten.
However, in addition to a disappointing record, even the wins haven’t been all that fun. Ohio State has six one-possession outcomes (four losses, two wins), and nine two-possession outcomes (two losses, seven wins), meaning that more than half of their games have effectively come down to the final minute, with even more close late.
So, while the losses have certainly been frustrating for Buckeye fans in 2016-2017, very few games, even the wins, have been enjoyable to watch. Saturday’s game against Nebraska is another example of OSU’s insistence on playing up or down to the level of competition.
2. Ohio State controls its own destiny for a first-round, Big Ten Tournament bye. Let’s make one thing clear, the chances of Ohio State making the NCAA Tournament are minuscule, however, if they have any hope, it will have to come in the form of a Big Ten Tournament championship. And, even if they fall short of accomplishing that goal, there are many positives to a deep run in the tourney’s first appearance in Washington D.C.
A few B1G Tournament victories would be a nice way to cap a disappointing conference season, and they could help solidify a still very much in question berth to the NIT.
In the Big Ten Tourney, the bottom four teams in the conference’s standings all play in a de facto play-in round; something every team would like to avoid. With their 5-10 conference record, the Buckeyes are currently 13th, second to last in the league.
However, in OSU’s final two games, they play Penn State (currently tied for 9th) and Indiana (currently tied for the third-to-last spot). While nothing has been easy for the Buckeyes this season, the results of these two games will likely determine when Ohio State tips it off in the nation’s capital.
With the conference’s unbalanced schedule, Ohio State has not yet played with the Nittany Lions or the Hoosiers.
3. Jae’Sean Tate is a scorer, but not yet a shooter. There is no doubt that Jae’Sean Tate has been the best player for Ohio State this season. As an undersized power forward, Tate has been a matchup problem for many Big Ten teams. His energy and intensity on both sides of the court have made him the most productive player on the team by leaps and bounds.
However, despite leading the team with 14 points per game, his jumper is still lacking at times. Against Nebraska, he had multiple seemingly good looks that went lacking, but assuming that he returns to Columbus for his senior year, an off-season of shot work with assistant coach Chris Jent could make him an even more well-rounded weapon in 2017-2018.