In its past five games, facing five Big Ten opponents, Ohio State has failed to win a game.
Chris Holtmann has not been through a stretch like this since his first season as the head coach at Gardner Webb, leading the Runnin’ Bulldogs through a nine-game losing streak during the 2010-11 season.
Ohio State has not been through a stretch like this since the 1997-98 season in which the Buckeyes recorded a 17-game losing streak, ending the season with an 8-22 record.
The head coach knows where the problems lie for Ohio State.
The offense has not scored more than 70 points since Jan. 5, averaging just under 63 points per game in the past four games.
On the other end, the defense has given up fewer than 70 points once during the five-game losing stretch, allowing opponents to shoot over 40 percent from the field in each of those games while Maryland and Purdue have combined to make 23-of-41 attempts from 3 in the past two games.
“There are some definite common themes, but I think when you are struggling, you plug a hole and the other one seems to pop up,” Holtmann said.
Senior guard C.J. Jackson summed up the feelings of the Ohio State players and coaching staff: Nobody wants to lose.
However, he said the approach in the locker room is still positive and Ohio State knows specifically what time of the game it needs to improve in.
“Each game’s pretty much going to come down how the last couple of games, the last couple of possessions that hurt us in the first half, that hurt us in the second half, which ended up hurting us in the win column,” Jackson said. “So we just have to stay positive, stay ready and keep learning from our past experiences.”
Ohio State will try and learn from its past five losses Saturday against Nebraska.
Ohio State (12-6, 2-5 Big Ten)
G — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.7 apg
G — Keyshawn Woods — Redshirt senior, 7.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg
G — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.1 apg
F — Andre Wesson — Junior, 8.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.7 apg
F — Kaleb Wesson — Sophomore, 15.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.7 apg
Nebraska (13-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
G — James Palmer Jr. — Senior, 19.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.3 apg
G — Glynn Watson Jr. — Senior, 13.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.8 apg
G — Thomas Allen — Sophomore, 8.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
F — Isaac Copeland Jr. — Senior, 14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 apg
F — Isaiah Roby — Junior, 10.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 apg
Much like Ohio State, Nebraska has had a difficult time returning to Big Ten play in 2019. The Cornhuskers have lost four of their past six games, including their past two against then-No. 6 Michigan State and Rutgers.
However, unlike Ohio State, Nebraska has age on its side. The Cornhuskers have three seniors in their starting lineup, each averaging double-digit point totals.
Nebraska is led by senior guard James Palmer Jr., who leads the team with 19.4 points per game. But he is shooting only 39.1 percent from the field, leading the Cornhuskers with 274 shot attempts, 69 more than any other player on the roster.
Despite inconsistencies from its leading scorer, Nebraska has five players with more than 20 steals, with sophomore guard Thomas Allen leading the team with 33.
The Cornhuskers’ plus-4.3 turnover margin per game is No. 12 in the NCAA.
Jackson said taking care of the ball will be something that is vital to the success of Ohio State against Nebraska, especially for an Ohio State team that is averaging 12.7 turnovers per game.
“That’s probably one of the major keys for us is taking care of the ball,” Jackson said. “Against teams in the Big Ten, that kind of puts you in a bad position already, so we have to take care of the ball, especially in a hostile environment with how it is going to be tomorrow.”
Nebraska’s forwards — junior Isaiah Roby and senior Isaac Copeland Jr. — have been very consistent for the team in the paint, each shooting over 50 percent from the field and averaging more than 5.5 rebounds per game.
Without a big sample size in true road games, splitting the four games it has played as a visitor, Ohio State has the opportunity to change its momentum against an opponent going through similar losing ways.
Jackson said it will take the Buckeyes returning to what brought them success in nonconference play.
“We just have to be who we are and get back to doing the things that made us successful earlier in the season, which is playing defense and getting stops; being good teammates, celebrating together, all that,” Jackson said.“Once that translates on the defensive end, offense obviously comes with it.”
This will have to be against an experienced Nebraska starting five that is motivated, according to Holtmann.
But an addition to the win column is something the Ohio State head coach said he needs to start plugging the holes that this five-game losing streak has created.
“A win affects everything: mood, confidence, all that kind of thing,” Holtmann said.
Ohio State will take on the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska at noon on Saturday.