Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
Coming into Monday night’s game against Nebraska, the Ohio State men’s basketball team had limited opponents to 50 points or fewer seven times this season.
The Buckeyes accomplished the feat for the eighth time Tuesday, thanks in part to a dominant effort on the defensive end by the Buckeyes in their 71-40 victory.
No. 6 OSU improved to 14-2, 2-1 in Big Ten play. Nebraska lost their third-straight Big Ten game and fell to 8-6, 0-3 in the Big Ten.
Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, who scored 19 points and added 12 rebounds in the win, said the Buckeyes were only concerned with their play when Nebraska had the ball.
“We weren’t worried about the offensive end, we were just worried about the defensive end,” Sullinger said.
OSU’s defensive effort began following the opening tip, which Nebraska won.
The Buckeyes forced a shot-clock violation on Nebraska’s opening possession, and would continue to pressure the Cornhuskers for the remainder of the first half.
OSU held the Cornhuskers to 20 points and forced 10 turnovers in the first half. Nebraska shot a mere 8-24 from the field, including 1-9 from 3-point range during the first 20 minutes.
Thad Matta said intensity was the key for the Buckeyes defensively.
“We felt like being where we needed to be and putting pressure on the ball was gonna be big for us,” he said.
OSU’s defensive pressure gave Nebraska fits all game long.
The Cornhuskers shot 16-52 from the field. Nebraska had more turnovers (17) than they did shots made (16).
Six different Buckeyes had at least one steal, including three by sophomore guard Aaron Craft, who also added four points and four assists.
Bo Spencer, Nebraska’s leading scorer, was held to 5-15 shooting, 0-5 from 3-point range.
“We knew Spencer is a guy that can go crazy if you let him go in a game,” Matta said. “Getting guys to slow him down — which I thought we did well.”
But the end of the first half, with OSU leading, 44-20, the Buckeyes’ already had enough offense to eventually secure the win.
On a night where OSU was a bit careless with the ball — the Buckeyes turned the ball over 19 times — strong defensive play was key.
“We was pretty careless with the ball. Defense was the key to winning the game,” said senior guard William Buford, who scored 13 points and added five rebounds and four assists.
The Buckeyes did against the Cornhuskers what they weren’t able to do in their two losses this season.
In OSU’s two losses this season, the team allowed a combined 152 points. Its opponent also shot 52 percent from the field.
“We gave up 17 layups against Indiana,” Sullinger said. “We turned up our defensive intensity (tonight).”
The Buckeyes will next take the floor again Saturday at Iowa. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.