Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The Ohio State men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to four games Saturday night when the Buckeyes defeated Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., 63-56.
The No. 11-ranked Buckeyes advanced to 17-4 on the season and 7-2 in Big Ten play after the win.
Nebraska proved to be a much tougher opponent than it was in the teams’ first meeting of the season on Jan. 2, when OSU dispatched the Huskers, 70-44, at the Schottenstein Center. Saturday, Nebraska gave the Buckeyes all they could handle for a good portion of the first half and even led twice.
The Buckeyes received sporadic production from junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who scored 15 points but struggled while doing so. The Big Ten’s leading scorer connected on just 6-of-18 shots, as he was constantly double-teamed and harassed by Husker defenders.
While Thomas was fairly inefficient with his scoring, Lenzelle Smith Jr. was anything but. The junior guard made all six of his field goal attempts for a game-high and season-high 21 points.
OSU’s 15-4 run at the end of the first half, to which Thomas contributed five points and Smith Jr. added two, seemed to drain some energy out of the home crowd and the Huskers, giving OSU the momentum.
The Buckeyes carried that momentum into the second half, and expanded their lead to as much as 15 points.
But the resilient Huskers would not go away.
Nebraska slowly chipped away at OSU’s lead, in large part because of senior center and defensive anchor Andre Almeida.
The 6-foot-11, 314-pound Almeida made it difficult for OSU to find easy looks in the paint, and as the Buckeyes struggled to find scores, Nebraska cut the margin to five points with just more than a minute left to play.
The Huskers couldn’t knock down a few open shots in the closing minute, however, and OSU put the game away from the free-throw line.
Nebraska falls to 11-12 on the season and to 2-8 in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes remain perfect against their newest conference foe. Since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, OSU is 4-0 against Nebraska.
After struggling to put away one of the Big Ten’s bottom feeders, the Buckeyes will now move into what could be their toughest week of the season.
OSU is set to play No. 1 Michigan Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich., before taking on No. 3 Indiana on Sunday.