It wasn’t necessarily a textbook performance from the Ohio State men’s basketball team (18-10, 10-5), but it still got the job done Saturday night at Nebraska (14-14, 6-9).
Despite a sluggish start, 17 turnovers and two players fouling out, the Buckeyes toppled the Cornhuskers 65-62 in overtime.
With the win, OSU’s postseason flame still burns, albeit dimly.
Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle poured in 19 points, including a pair of free throws that sent the game into overtime and three key buckets down the stretch in overtime.
Alongside Lyle’s strong showing, sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop had 16 points and classmate Jae’Sean Tate had 15 and a dozen rebounds. Junior forward Marc Loving matched Tate’s 15 points.
Outside of this quartet, no other Buckeye scored.
Both teams got off to horrendous starts, as they settled for jump shots that simply were not falling. OSU shot just 1-of-10 from the field in the first 11:36, while Nebraska missed 11 of its first 14 shots, too.
The result of this indolent start was a 6-2 Nebraska advantage in the first nine minutes, with Tate being the only Buckeye to register in the scoring column.
It was a forgettable way to get out of the gates. But as it turns out, OSU quickly did forget its lackluster start.
The Buckeyes flipped a switch, peeling off a 13-5 run over a nine-minute period to snatch a 15-13 advantage.
During that span for the Cornhuskers, a lack of aggressiveness plagued them. They continued to settle for too many jump shots, converting on just one of their six attempts from downtown.
More of the same sloppy basketball ensued up to the halftime horn, with Nebraska holding a one-point lead, 22-21, at the break. The 43 combined points made for the lowest total in the first half of a Big Ten game this season.
Freshman forward Jack McVeigh led the Cornhuskers with six points, while classmate Glynn Watson Jr. had five points and four rebounds. As a team, Nebraska shot just 26 percent from the field, including a painful 3-of-17 performance from 3-point land.
For OSU, only three players — Tate, Bates-Diop and Loving — scored.
Loving led the way with 11 points and three rebounds on 3-of-7 shooting. Tate added six points and four boards, while Bates-Diop registered four points, although he needed seven shots to do so.
When the second half began, the Buckeyes were noticeably more aggressive.
After an opening 3-pointer by McVeigh, OSU started driving to the basket, either getting fouled and going to the free throw line or connecting on easy layups.
The Buckeyes’ first 13 points in the second period came from the charity stripe or inside the paint.
At the 10-minute mark, amid a 20-5 run, the Buckeyes were leading 41-30.
That momentum-shifting stretch was spearheaded by Lyle, who used a combination of the inside and outside game to score 11 straight points for OSU.
It started to look like the Buckeyes were pulling away, but the Cornhuskers had other plans.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Watson and McVeigh immediately breathed new life into Nebraska.
Then, a few possessions later, junior guard Tai Webster knocked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key, which cut OSU’s lead down to two points and fired up the white-and-red clad crowd.
Over the course of the next four minutes, the two teams traded punches. Nebraska got it to as close as one on two separate occasions, but OSU also had an advantage as large as five in that stretch.
After slicing OSU’s lead back to one point at the 1:19 mark, Lyle missed a layup, giving it back to the Cornhuskers with a chance to take the lead.
Andrew White III didn’t squander the opportunity. The junior guard buried a contested 3-pointer from a few steps beyond the line, giving Nebraska its first lead in 17 minutes.
Trailing 56-54, OSU got its chance to counter. Lyle dribbled the ball at the top of the key, as the clock dwindled, eventually taking his man off the bounce and forcing a foul. The freshman composed himself and knocked down the game-tying free throws.
A turnover by Nebraska and a last-second heave from freshman Mickey Mitchell clanked off the rim, sending the game to overtime.
In the bonus period, Lyle carried the Buckeyes. Loving scored OSU’s first points, but after that, the freshman guard used his size to take his man off the dribble, weaving to the rim for three consecutive layups.
The third and final one ended up becoming the game-clincher for OSU after the Cornhuskers’ final few chances came up short.
McVeigh led Nebraska with 16 points and four rebounds.
Next up for OSU is one of its hardest tests to date, a matchup with No. 8 Michigan State on Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.