Nothing was pretty about the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s game against Nebraska on Saturday. The Buckeyes walked away from the Schottenstein Center with yet another conference loss, this time losing 58-57.
“We weren’t as dialed in as we needed to be,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “There’s certain times when … the game is ongoing. You don’t get to talk about plays that are coming up and we didn’t do what we needed to do or what we wanted to do down the stretch there.”
OSU (15-13, 5-10) failed to lock down on defense on Nebraska senior guard Tai Webster, and struggled to produce points of its own. Webster picked up 17 points, and was a constant threat from the floor, going 7 for 12. Nebraska forward Glynn Watson Jr. picked up 14 points.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles brought a light mood after the game, saying he wanted to go straight to questions rather than make an opening statement. He, like everyone else, was perplexed by what had just transpired.
“I can’t explain it,” Miles said with a laugh.
Sophomore guard C.J. Jackson started the game for OSU instead of sophomore JaQuan Lyle, but Jackson struggled mightily. He finished the game with four turnovers, and just six points.
The Buckeyes gained their largest lead with seven minutes left in the first, as Tate dropped in a layup to give OSU a 22-11 lead. On four different occasions in the opening half, the Scarlet and Gray had a lead of 11.
As the clock wound down in the first, OSU regained possession of the ball after a missed shot was batted in the air by redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson and found its way into the hands of redshirt junior guard Kam Williams. Although the Buckeyes were given a golden opportunity to increase their 30-24 lead right before the break, OSU struggled to formulate a play and was forced to call a timeout.
After failing an alley-oop attempt as the clock struck zero, Lyle was visibly upset, clapping his hands hard together as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
OSU increased its lead to 11 on a jumper from Jackson and a 3-pointer from senior Marc Loving coming out of halftime. Nebraska started to reel the Buckeyes back in with back-to-back 3-pointers from Watson and Webster.
Webster dropped a dime as he was falling to Nebraska sophomore forward Ed Morrow for a slam, and junior forward Nick Fuller dropped in a layup before Morrow hit another shot to cut the OSU lead down to three.
Nebraska continuously fought back all game, which is nothing new according to Miles.
“We’ve had resolve all year,” he said. “We’ve come from behind in wins. We’ve hung around in losses.”
The Buckeyes turned the ball over, and sophomore forward Jack McVeigh of Nebraska nailed a 3 to tie the game at 43 with 8:45 left. A putback layup by Thompson off a fastbreak by Jackson gave OSU a four-point lead and reenergized the crowd with six minutes remaining.
Down the stretch and throughout the game, OSU could not find the range from deep. What OSU lacked in accuracy from deep, Nebraska lacked from the charity stripe. Nebraska hit just 4 of 9 attempts from the free throw line, while the Buckeyes made 5 of 17 attempts from deep.
Tate made an acrobatic putback layup with four minutes left to give OSU a five-point lead. Nebraska clawed back to within two, but a traveling violation by the Cornhuskers and a deep 3-pointer from Loving appeared to put the game away.
McVeigh nailed a 3-pointer, however, and a jump ball gave the Cornhuskers the ball once again. Watson hit a layup and was fouled, and knocked down his free throw to give Nebraska its first and only lead of the game.
Tate received the inbounds pass, but was confused where to pass the ball, and settled for an off-balanced shot, which he missed. OSU led for the entire game, except for 11 seconds.
“We gotta be smarter,” Tate said following the game. “We beat ourselves tonight, and we deserved it.”
Thompson, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in the game, was nearly silent, offering little in terms of any kind of response too media questions.
OSU returns to the Schottenstein Center on Feb. 23 to take on Wisconsin. Last time the two teams met, the Buckeyes were dominated 89-66 in Madison.
Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.