Buckeyes Season on the Brink, Drop 5th Straight
Ohio State is in a funk to put it lightly, dropping another game to a Big Ten doormat, falling on the road to Nebraska 63-60 in what might be the worst performance in a number of years. Shooting just 36% on the night, Ohio State has now dropped five straight games to fall to 10-8 and 2-5. Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Sean McNeil added 11 and Zed Key added 11 and 10 in the losing effort.
Ohio State scored first as Bruce Thornton found Zed Key at the right block for two. Nebraska scored the next 5 as the Buckeyes opened the game 1 of 7 shooting and at the first media timeout, the Huskers led 5-2. After Sean McNeil split a pair of free throws, the Huskers drilled a triple as Ohio State’s shooting woes continued. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their defense traveled as Nebraska struggled to get any good looks, which kept Ohio State close. Ice Likekele banked in a floater mid-paint and McNeil drilled a 17 footer left of the line and at the under 12 media timeout, Nebraska’s lead was cut to just 1, 8-7. The Huskers increased the lead with a long baseline jumper, but a Roddy Gayle floater from 10 cut the lead back to 1. The Huskers got another bucket, scoring from the right block and Ohio State continued to struggle on the offensive end, hitting just 4 of their 18 shot attempts and Chris Holtmann called a timeout with 8:25 to play in the first half with Nebraska leading 12-9. Tanner Holden’s jumper from 15 on the baseline dropped to cut into the lead, but back came the Huskers, scoring again from the right block to answer. A pair of Holden free throws and with a chance to take a lead, Ohio State missed two easy layups and Nebraska took advantage, scoring the next 5, to go up 6. Brice Sensabaugh ended the run with a pair of free throws and at the under 4 media timeout, Nebraska was leading 19-15. A Husker bucket was followed by 5 straight Sensabaugh points and the Buckeyes cut the lead to 1. Ohio State took their first lead since the early moments when McNeil buried a 15 footer from the left wing and that completed the scoring as Ohio State took a 22-21 lead into the locker room, holding Nebraska scoreless over the final 3:12. An ugly first half all around as the Buckeyes missed open shot after open shot, many at point blank range, to finish the half hitting just 8 of 30 from the floor, 27%. The Buckeye defense locked down in the half court, holding Nebraska to just 9 of 30, 30%. Nebraska owned the paint, outscoring Ohio State 12-4 inside, but the Buckeyes forced 7 Husker turnovers, while turning it over just 4 times themselves. In what very possibly was the worst half of basketball Ohio State has played this season, Sensabaugh led Ohio State with 7 points and 6 rebounds, and McNeil chipped in 5, and although it has been a point of emphasis this week, Ohio State assisted on just 3 of their 8 made baskets, although much of that had to do with the poor first half shooting.
Nebraska regained the lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a pair of Key free throws put Ohio State back in front. Ohio State extended the lead when Justice Sueing found McNeil in the left corner for three. Four straight Husker points tied the game before a Sueing bucket mid-paint put the Buckeyes back ahead and the lead grew when McNeil drilled a triple from the right point. Back to back Nebraska threes put the Huskers back in front 33-32 at the under 16 media timeout. Out of the timeout, Sueing split a pair of free throws to tie the game, but an old-fashioned three point play on the other end put Nebraska back up 3. Key’s bucket at the right block trimmed the lead and after a Nebraska player control foul turned it back over to the Buckeyes, Key split a pair of free throws to tie the score. After a Nebraska miss, Key scored on the left block to put Ohio State back in front. A technical foul call on Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg put McNeil to the line and he inexplicably missed both, which was a turning point in the ballgame and three misses in row for McNeil, his first three misses of the year. While Ohio State had a chance to create some separation, Nebraska took advantage of the missed opportunity, tying the game at 38 just before the under 12 timeout. Out of the timeout, Holden went to the stripe and buried a pair to put the Buckeyes back in front for a moment before a Nebraska three gave the lead back to the Huskers. Back and forth they went. A Likekele score was answered on the other end to keep the lead with Nebraska. Sensabaugh drilled a three from the left point, but a bucket on the other end answered again, as Nebraska got to the rim for an easy score and the Buckeyes took a timeout with the game tied at 45. After a Buckeye turnover, Nebraska scored another easy bucket at the rim to regain the lead. A Sensabaugh pullup jumper quickly re-tied the game and another Sensabaugh runner off the glass dropped to put Ohio State back on top. An acrobatic layup for Nebraska tied the score again and after Key missed the front end of a one and one, Nebraska drilled a three to go back up. After a turnover each way and a Buckeye miss, Nebraska took a timeout with 7:05 to play and leading on the scoreboard 52-49. Out of the timeout, the Huskers extended the lead after Ohio State turned it over leading to a transition bucket at the rim. More Huskers as one of two free throws dropped and Nebraska was on an 8-0 run and leading by 6. Sueing stopped the run and put the first Buckeye points on the board in over 3 minutes, splitting a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 5. After an offensive foul by Sueing turned it over, the under 4 media timeout hit with Nebraska leading 55-50. The Buckeyes cut into the lead when a steal led to a Key bucket at the rim and Ohio State took a timeout with 2:20 to play. After an offensive foul turned it back over to Ohio State, Sensabaugh split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 2. A Buckeye foul put Nebraska on the stripe where both fell and Ohio State was looking up at a 4 point deficit and time was running out on the Buckeyes. After a Buckeye miss a Husker score preceded a Thornton jumper and the foul game began. The Huskers buried both and with 43 seconds left, Ohio State trailed by 6. Quickly down the floor, Sensabaugh found some space in the left corner and drilled a three to cut the lead to 3 with 36 seconds to go and Ohio State took a timeout. Another Buckeye foul put Nebraska back on the line where they split the pair. A foul on Nebraska put McNeil at the stripe where he made both to cut the lead to two. Back at the line once again, Nebraska split the pair with 12 seconds to go. Ohio State got the ball in the front court and Sean McNeil rose for a game tying three at the horn that went in and out to end the game.
Where do we go from here? Certainly it isn’t calling for the coach’s job despite the irrational vocal minority, but Ohio State needs to do some soul searching. They dropped yet another winnable game and yet another single digit loss. This team just doesn’t know how to win right now. They put themselves in a position to win but just aren’t getting the stops necessary even against bad teams. They are playing with effort, but they just look like they are pressing and playing too tight on the offensive end. They can certainly still turn this thing around as they have more than half the conference slate in front of them, but it isn’t going to get easier. Despite the conference lacking a super team, including Purdue, there is a lot of balance and no easy nights. If they want to get things turned around, they must win on Saturday. Right now, they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but that does not matter today. The selection committee isn’t putting together the field tomorrow. Ohio State needs to play like a desperate team on Saturday afternoon, find a way to win and get things moving in the right direction. They aren’t far away, but they need to finish games better than they have in the last five. It’s time now. We’ll see the heart of this team and what they are made of on Saturday in the Schott.
Ohio State laces ‘em up again on Saturday afternoon at 2PM, looking to end the losing streak, hosting Iowa in the Schott and airing on FOX.