Shorthanded Buckeyes Top Nebraska, End Losing Streak

#21 Ohio State ended their four game losing streak, getting a much needed victory, cruising past visiting Nebraska 80-68 in the Schott.  Playing without sophomore guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington, Jr., suspended by Chris Holtmann for what he deemed “failure to meet program expectations and standards”, Ohio State pulled away midway through the first half, built a lead as large as 25 in the second half, before holding off a furious Cornhusker rally late to lock down their first victory of 2020. C.J. Walker led six Buckeyes in double figures, scoring a season high 18 to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  Kaleb Wesson chipped in 13 points and 13 boards and D.J. Carton added 13 and 5 dimes.  Andre Wesson added 11, while Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell each scored 10 for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State went scoreless for the first 3:30 of the basketball game, missing their first five field goal attempts enabling Nebraska to get out to an early 4-0 lead.  The Buckeyes finally got on the board when Andre Wesson splashed down a triple from the left point and on the next two possessions, it was Wesson again with two more triples, one from the short corner and one from the right wing, and suddenly Ohio State led 9-4. Nebraska cut the lead to 9-7 but a quick 6-0 run, the last of which came from a beautiful feed from D.J. Carton to E.J. Liddell in transition for a dunk, forced the Cornhuskers to call timeout with Ohio State on top 15-7 and 11:41 remaining in the first half. The Huskers turned it over on the first possession out of the timeout with an errant pass and on the ensuing possession, D.J. Carton drove the left side of the lane and put it high off the glass for a deuce and the Buckeyes led by 10. After a Husker bucket, a quick 4-0 run for Ohio State put the Buckeyes up 21-9.  After a Nebraska score cut the lead to 10, Carton splashed a triple from the right wing to give the Buckeyes their largest lead thus far at 24-11. A quick 4-0 Husker run cut the lead to 9 but Ohio State answered with a 6-0 run of their own, all coming by way of Kyle Young, including a pretty give and go along the baseline with Andre Wesson to give the Buckeyes a 30-15 lead with 5 minutes to go in the half. After a Nebraska three cut the lead to 12, an E.J. Liddell free throw followed by Justin Ahrens three gave Ohio State a 36-20 lead with 2 minutes left.  Back to back Buckeye turnovers enabled the Huskers to cut into the lead, going on a 5-0 run to trim the lead to 11 but Ahrens drilled a desperation jumper at the horn with a toe on the line that counted for two to send the teams to the locker room with Ohio State comfortably ahead 38-25.  Andre Wesson led all scorers with 9 in the first 20 minutes, while Kaleb Wesson chipped in just 4 points, but 7 rebounds. Ohio State got the shooting touch back, hitting 54% from the field, including 5 of 10 from long range, while holding Nebraska to just 31% in the first half.

Ohio State got the second half started quickly as Carton drove to the rim and scored while drawing a foul and knocked down the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play to put Ohio State up 16.  A Husker 3 trimmed the lead back to 13 but Kaleb Wesson found Kyle Young at the rim for the lay in to put the Buckeyes back up 15. Carton knocked down a three to put Ohio State up briefly by 18 but Nebraska answered with a three of their own. E.J. Liddell drilled a wide open three from the right point to give the Buckeyes their 18 point lead right back but 4 straight Nebraska points cut the lead to 14 at the under 16 media timeout. C.J. Walker upped the lead to 16 when he got the steal at one end and went coast to coast for a contested layup. The lead would hover around 16 until a Nebraska 3 at the 12-minute mark trimmed the lead to 13 but D.J. Carton was fouled attempting a three just before the under 12 media timeout.  Carton drilled 2 of the 3 free throws coming out of the timeout and Ohio State led by 15. After a Cornhusker turnover, Kaleb Wesson grabbed an Andre Wesson miss from long range for a tip dunk and the Buckeyes led by 17. After a Nebraska miss, C.J. Walker buried a triple from the right wing to push the lead to 20, forcing Nebraska to call timeout with 10:15 to go in the game and the Buckeyes firmly in control. Five more Walker points, including another triple from nearly the identical spot as his last one, upped the Buckeye run to 12-0 and the lead to 25 with just over 8 minutes remaining. Nebraska chipped away and cut the lead to 20 with a three from the right corner and following a Buckeye turnover, another Husker 3 from the deep point cut the lead to 17 and Chris Holtmann called timeout to try to get his young Buckeyes settled down as they had suddenly seen their once insurmountable lead being chipped away. Coming out of the timeout, Walker drove the lane and kicked back out to Kaleb Wesson who calmly knocked down a three from the top to get the lead back to 20 but Nebraska would score the next 7 to cut the lead to 13 but with time not on their side. After Andre Wesson scored in the lane, the Huskers buried yet another three to cut the lead to 12 and that’s how it would finish with Ohio State securing a much needed victory.

It was a game Ohio State needed in a bad way and although there were stretches where it wasn’t pretty, they overcame the adversity of not having 2 of their better players due to suspension and still got the victory. While Nebraska will likely finish in or around the cellar of the conference, it was a game Ohio State had to have and they got it.  We can only hope that it will be a confidence builder moving forward and help get this Buckeye basketball team some positive momentum.  As they say, momentum is only as good as the next ballgame so we will see how they respond.  For now, it’s a check in the left column and nobody will ever apologize for a win.

The Buckeyes hit the road again on Saturday, heading to State College to finish the season series with the Nittany Lions, who they defeated back in early December in the Schott by a score of 106-74. Tip time is scheduled for high noon airing on ESPNU.

-Jason Harris

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