Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
CHICAGO–In what was perhaps the most surprising outcome of the first day of the Big Ten tournament, No. 10 seed Nebraska upset the No. 7 seed, Purdue.
After beating the Boilermakers, 57-55, Thursday evening, the Huskers will take on No. 2 seed Ohio State Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Let’s take a closer look at OSU’s opponent in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center in Chicago.
Record: 15-17, 5-13 Big Ten
Against OSU in the regular season: 0-2
The Buckeyes swept Nebraska in the regular season.
OSU, led by junior forward Deshaun Thomas’ 22 points, handled the Cornhuskers, 70-44, on Jan. 2 in Columbus in the first conference game of the year. Junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. poured in 17 points while sophomore center Amir Williams took care of the paint on the defensive end with four blocks. The Buckeyes’ 26-point margin of victory is tied for the largest of their conference season with a Feb. 20 blowout of Minnesota.
The Buckeyes came out of the gates in their second outing against Nebraska of the season on Feb. 2 similarly to the way they had in their first meeting. OSU jumped out to a 11-point lead in Lincoln, Neb.-sparked by the outside shooting of Thomas and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross-but Nebraska rallied. The Huskers cut the deficit to nine points by halftime and to five with 2:40 remaining in the second half due to a 15-5 run. OSU tightened up its perimeter defense, and escaped the Devaney Center with a 63-56 victory.
Matchup to watch: OSU junior guard Aaron Craft vs. Nebraska junior guard Ray Gallegos.
In two games against OSU in the regular season, the sharp-shooting Gallegos was bottled up by the Buckeyes’ floor leader. Craft held Gallegos to a combined 8-for-32 from the field, well below his near-37 percent shooting percentage. If Nebraska is going to upset the Buckeyes Friday night, Gallegos will have to be much better than his regular season showing against OSU’s premier defender. Gallegos, who averages 12.8 points on the season, had a cold shooting night in the Huskers win against Purdue, scoring nine points on 11 shots.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles on the upcoming game:
“Our guys will be ready to go. I think they will be locked in and their hearts are fresher than their legs, but I think that’s going to be all right,” Miles said after the game Thursday. “We’ll just play a low possession game and see what happens.”