There was little drama in Thad Matta’s 400th game as a collegiate head coach, as the No. 6 Buckeyes steamrolled Nebrasky 79-45 on the road. William Buford scored 15, with Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas adding 14 apiece, giving Ohio State (17-3, 5-2) a season sweep of the Cornhuskers (10-9, 2-6) by a combined score of 150-85. The Buckeyes stretched their 16-point halftime lead with a 7-2 run to start the second half and never looked back. Nebrasky fans threw confetti onto the court when their team took a 2-0 lead, causing a stoppage in play, and then Ohio State started playing. Sully didn’t even have a great start to the game, finishing the first half with just four points (1-3 shooting), one rebound and two fouls, but Thomas, Buford and Aaron Craft combined to score more than the entire Husker lineup in the opening 20 minutes.
In the preview, I told you that for the Buckeyes to win they had to cut down on turnovers, shoot around 45% or better and avoid foul trouble. After 19 turnovers in the first meeting, the Buckeyes finished with 11 at Nebraska, and several came after Matta emptied the bench. Likewise, team shooting finished at 43.3%, but the reserves laid a truckload of bricks in the closing minutes. Take away Evan Ravenel, who left the game with lots of time left on the clock to make way for Amir Williams, and the bench was 6-16. Ohio State also avoided foul trouble to key players. Nebrasky needed OSU foul trouble, turnovers, and poor shooting, and also required someone to have a big night, but no Husker scored more than eight points.
Nebraska led 8-5 four minutes into the game, before Craft nailed a triple and Lenzelle Smith hit a layup, then Ohio State never trailed again, nor was the game ever tied after that point. The Craft bomb started a 31-12 run in the last 14:29 in the first half. Nebraska turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, and shot just 25% (1-9 beyond the arc) before the break. Their 21-13 rebounding disparity was rendered insignificant by their turnovers and poor shooting. Credit Ohio State’s defense for a lot of that, but Toney McCray’s 0-8 first half helped dig a huge hole for his team. Evan Ravenel’s seven points off the bench played a key role in igniting the Buckeyes in the first half.
Toward the end of the first half the officials started to call the game very tightly in regard to body contact far away from the basket, including in the backcourt. This hurt both teams at first, but Ohio State adjusted to it and Nebrasky did not. It contributed to Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson both fouling out in the second half. Smith ended up with four fouls, mostly due to the same kinds of calls. For a Nebraska team that was already struggling in all phases of the game, except half-court defense, where they actually played pretty well at times, the foul problems of Spencer and Richardson were significant.
A Buford triple, a Thomas one-handed slam and a Sam Thompson two-handed flush offset a pair of Spencer free throws and got things going quickly for the Buckeyes. Sullinger got his game going and the rest was just a matter of how much playing time the bench would get and how big the final margin would be.
Ohio State closed the final rebound margin a bit, with Nebraska owning a 37-31 edge on the glass. The Buckeyes allowed only one Husker offensive rebound in the second half, after giving up nine in the first half. Nebraska finished with a season high 28 turnovers in the game, shot 29.5% overall and 17.6% (3-17) outside the arc. That’s better than the 2-18 in Columbus, but just barely. If anything, Nebraska played worse at home and was never in contention, despite BTN commentator Eric Collins laughably saying the Buckeyes were in trouble (they were up seven at the time—and still in the first half).
Of the bench players, Ravenel looked the best, but was most effective in the first half, when the game was still somewhat in doubt. Shannon Scott had some good minutes, as did Sam Thompson. Every Buckeye scored except Trey McDonald. Jordan Sibert didn’t look particularly good with his minutes, going 1-5 from the floor and only 3-6 at the line, but he did have two steals, two rebounds and an assist.
Spencer and Brandon Ubel paced the Huskers with eight points each. Spencer averages almost double that, entering the game as the B1G’s eighth leading scorer. Ubel matched his eight points with a game high eight rebounds. McCray, who played well in Columbus, was just 2-10 shooting for five points. Dylan Talley and Jorge Brian Diaz, who both missed the first meeting, average over 18 points between them. They had seven in the game and all seven were scored by Talley.
Next up for Ohio State is Penn Shtate on Wednesday at The Schott at 6:30 p.m.
Notes: Ohio State is 6-2 against Nebraska in the all-time series and 2-1 in Lincoln…It was the second time this season Ohio State didn’t allow a double-digit scorer. The first was at Iowa…It is the fourth time this season the Buckeyes have beaten a B1G opponent by more than 25 points…Buford started his 118th game tying him for fifth on the all-time OSU list with Jamar Butler…Sam Thompson had a career high three blocks…Ohio State has allowed just 34 first-half points combined in the last two games.