The No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-4, 9-0) held off the Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-8, 5-4) 64-59 at home Monday to extend its unbeaten streak in the Big Ten.
Ohio State and Nebraska shared their touches, resulting in six lead changes in six minutes. The Buckeyes went on a 13-9 run with under four minutes remaining in the game, putting the Buckeyes up 55-54. The Buckeyes took the lead on a layup by redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop and ran out the clock to ice the victory.
Both teams got off to slow offensive starts. The leading scorer at the half was Nebraska junior guard James Palmer Jr. who had 11 points. Palmer finished the game leading all players with 34 points while shooting 61 percent from the field.
Ohio State tied its lowest scoring half of the season with 24 points. The other time it scored 24 points in a half came in a 67-66 loss to Butler.
This was a close one for the Buckeyes, who were only leading 18:23 of the game. For a team that has dominated the conference, the inability to put distance between itself and its opponent was a situation it had not seen yet so far in Big Ten play.
“This might not have been always enjoyable to watch, but this was a heck of a game to coach in, and a heck of a game to play in,” Holtmann said. “Highly competitive, two good teams going at it. We came into this knowing it was going to be a challenge. I expected this to be a game that would go down to the last two minutes.”
At the half, Nebraska was shooting 29 percent from the field. The Buckeyes were 9-for-25 from the field, shooting 36 percent. Both teams struggled from behind the arc shooting, with Ohio State making just 14.3 percent and Nebraska making 27.6 percent of 3-point shots.
Junior guard C.J. Jackson scored with 1:36 remaining in the first half to put the Buckeyes up 21-20. The Cornhuskers added a quick basket, but Jackson hit a 3 to put the Buckeyes up 24-22 at halftime.
The two teams stayed close after the break with Nebraska hitting all three of their first field goals to open the second half.
Four minutes into the game, the Buckeyes had just two points and freshman center Kaleb Wesson had two fouls. The Buckeyes were 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-2 from behind the arc. The Cornhuskers were 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3. Sophomore forward Andre Wesson went into halftime with two fouls. Ohio State and Nebraska combined for 16 fouls within the first half.
But despite this being a hard-fought game for the Buckeyes, they were still able to come away with a win by making the necessary adjustments at halftime.
“We just weren’t making the correct plays, the correct reads because they have such a good defense,” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “They like to double. That really made us uncomfortable in the first half whereas in the second half they kind of did the same thing but we were able to slow it down a little bit and get the dub.”
Ohio State trailed 12-5 with 13 minutes remaining in the first half, but went on a 12-4 run in seven minutes that was topped off by a two-handed dunk by Bates-Diop. This play gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the night.
With 11:42 left Palmer was able to drive past Wesson to tie the game at 38. Bates-Diop immediately responded, putting the Buckeyes up 40-38. He finished the game with 20 points and six rebounds.