Shorthanded Buckeyes Upset by Last Place Nebraska

In what will go down as the worst loss in several years, Ohio State, playing without injured Zed Key and most of the game without Kyle Young, who left with an undisclosed illness, fell to hapless Nebraska on their home floor 78-70 E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with 27 to go along with 14 rebounds and 5 blocks, while Malaki Branham added 16. The loss dropped Ohio State to 18-9 and 11-7, while Nebraska picked up their 9th win to go along with 21 losses and just their 3rd Big Ten win in 19 tries.

The teams traded points early as it was tied 6-6 through the first 3 minutes with the Buckeyes scoring coming from E.J. Liddell’s 4 and Kyle Young’s 2. The Huskers took their first lead, knocking down a three from the left wing and at the first media timeout, Ohio State was down 9-6 and had gone 0 for 3 from deep and 3 for 10 overall. Malaki Branham found Gene Brown cutting baseline for a deuce, but a Nebraska triple put the Huskers up 4. Liddell answered on the other end with a three from the top, then after a Nebraska turnover, Liddell hit a mid range jumper to put Ohio State back on top. The Buckeyes increased the lead when Branham came off a screen and hit a 12 footer and at the under 12, Ohio State led 15-12. A pair of Nebraska free throws coming out of the timeout cut the lead to one, but Justin Ahrens tipped a Liddell miss to Brown for a bucket. The Huskers tied it when a triple dropped, but Branham’s three answered and put the Buckeyes back on top. A Husker deuce cut into the lead momentarily before a Jimmy Sotos triple from the top and after a Husker turnover, Ahrens stroked a three forcing Nebraska to call timeout with Ohio State suddenly up 7.  A pair of Husker triples sandwiched around a Branham runner in the lane cut into the lead and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State was on top 28-25. A pair of Brown free throws put the Buckeyes ahead by 5, but an 8-0 Nebraska run forced Chris Holtmann to call a timeout with 4:34 left in the half and the Buckeyes suddenly trailing 33-30. A pair of Liddell free throws stopped the run and cut the Husker lead to one. The Huskers got a man open at the rim for two and at the final media timeout of the half, Nebraska led Ohio State 35-32. Out of the timeout, Liddell banged down both ends of a one and one and cut the deficit back to one after three straight Husker points, Sotos knocked down a pair to cut the deficit to two with just over 2 minutes to play in the first half. Two Nebraska free throws doubled the Husker lead and after a Buckeye miss, the Huskers drilled a three to go up 7. A Branham triple dropped, the first made bucket for Ohio State in their last 9 attempts, to complete the first half scoring and at the half, Ohio State trailed Nebraska 43-39. The 43 points allowed tied Duke for the most allowed in the first half by the Buckeyes all season. The lead was in large part due to a hot shooting first half, knocking down 55.6% of their shot attempts, while drilling 6 of 12 from long range. Ohio State shot just 40.6%, including 5 of 12 from deep, but lacked the energy in the first half needed to compete at a high level. E.J. Liddell led Ohio State in the first 20 minutes with 13, while Malaki Branham added 10. Nebraska was led by C.J. Wilcher’s 13, including 3 triples, while Bryce McGowens added 12. 

The Buckeyes struck first in the second half when Liddell knocked down a pair of free throws, but  six straight Husker points forced the Buckeyes to call timeout just 2 ½ minutes into the second half, now trailing 49-41.  It was also important to note, Kyle Young, who spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls, did not come out of the locker room after half time and would be out the remainder of the game with an illness. Out of the timeout, former walk-on, Harrison Hookfin entered the game, signaling Holtmann’s displeasure with the effort. Branham got to the rim to cut it to six, but another missed defensive assignment on the other end led to a clear lane and dunk and things were going poorly in Columbus. A scuffle on the other end and the injured Seth Towns raced on the floor to defend his teammates getting ejected from the bench, but no technicals were assessed. The Huskers scored again to go up 10 and now on a 10-2 run. Jamari Wheeler got to the rim off the bounce for a lay-in and Liddell hit a three from the top to cut the deficit to 5, but a long Nebraska three answered and the Buckeyes were back down 8. Liddell scored in the lane to cut it to six, but another easy Husker bucket answered and at the under 12 media timeout, Nebraska led 58-50. A pair of Liddell free throws trimmed the deficit back to six, but a Husker three bumped the deficit to 9. Sotos drilled a corner three to answer, but an old-fashioned three point play on the other end kept the margin at 9 and at the under 8 media timeout, Nebraska led 64-55. Out of the timeout, Liiddell split a pair of free throws, cut the Nebraska lead to 8 and then knocked down two more to cut the lead to 6, but another Husker triple put the deficit at 9 again. Cedric Russell knocked down a 15 footer to cut it to 7, but the answer once again on the other end and Ohio State trailed by 9 again. Wheeler got into the lane for a score and Ohio State took a timeout, trailing 69-62 with 4:52 to play. Another Husker score and at the final media timeout, Nebraska was in control, up 71-62. Two Nebraska free throws put the Huskers up 11 and it was all but over. Wheeler scored with a put back to cut it to 9 and a Liddell put back cut it to 7. After a Husker miss, Branham split a pair of free throws to cut it to 6 with 1:41 to play. Out of a 30 second timeout by Ohio State, Branham made a pair of free throws to cut it to four with less than a minute to play. Nebraska split a pair of free throws to increase the lead to four and after Liddell missed a three point attempt, the Buckeyes started playing the foul game. Nebraska made both freebies to go up 7 with 36 seconds to go. Branham got to the line and he split the pair all but ending Ohio State’s chances at a miracle. A pair of Nebraska free throws ended the scoring in an embarrassing loss in Columbus. 

The excuses are over for this basketball team.  There is absolutely no excuse to lose on your home floor to a team with 8 wins on the season. Yes, Nebraska is playing better, but they are still a last place basketball team and yes the Buckeyes were missing key players but they need to dig down deep and figure out where they want to go with the remainder of this season. This can go very bad in a hurry if they continue to play like they have the last two basketball games. There is no flow offensively, no toughness or connectedness on the defensive end making things way too easy for opponents. Someone other than E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham must contribute on the offensive end or they have seen their last win this season.  This one is embarrassing and they should all feel it in that locker room.  They will have to own it and hopefully bring better effort the next time out or the seat will get hot in Columbus. 

The Buckeyes will play the penultimate game of the regular season when they host Michigan State in the Schott on Thursday night.  Tip time is scheduled for 7 PM and airing on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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