In the past four games, Ohio State could hardly hit an open shot, let alone a contested one.
But sophomore forward Justin Ahrens drained a deep two at the first half buzzer with two Nebraska defenders draped over him to give the Buckeyes a 13-point lead headed into the locker room.
The shot was a sign that the ball was bouncing in favor of No. 21 Ohio State (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center during an 80-68 win against Nebraska (7-10, 2-4), which was exactly what the Buckeyes needed to get their first win in more than three weeks.
“Once we see the ball fall in the first half, we just went from there,” redshirt junior guard CJ Walker said. “That’s all we needed to see. We’ve been playing defense really well. We just haven’t been able to make shots.”
Increased time for Ahrens was likely a result of the absence of two regular starters — sophomore guards Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad — who were suspended 90 minutes before tipoff for a failure to meet team expectations.
It was another wing for the Buckeyes that stepped up in their absence, as senior forward Andre Wesson got hot early.
Ohio State started 0-for-5 before Andre Wesson drained three straight triples from three different spots beyond the arc to ignite the home crowd. The Buckeyes wouldn’t trail again.
“He’s a sniper,” junior forward Kaleb Wesson said. “You know what snipers do? They shoot from long range.”
Andre Wesson missed a 3-point attempt midway through the second half, but Kaleb Wesson was there to clean it up with a two-handed put-back dunk.
The next possession, a 3 from Walker put Ohio State up 63-43 for its largest lead of the game to that point. His 3-point make was part of eight straight points from Walker amid a 12-0 Buckeye run.
“I most definitely had a rhythm today,” Walker said. “I was able to make shots today. I haven’t been making shots in conference play so far, so today was really good for me.”
Starting together in the backcourt for the first time this year, Walker and freshman guard D.J. Carton proved a potent duo Tuesday, combining to score 31 points.
Ohio State struggled to score during its four-game losing skid, failing to put up 60 points in each game, but it was the Cornhuskers who were hard-pressed to find the bottom of the net Tuesday.
The one 3 Nebraska hit in the first half came in the final three minutes, and it shot just 31.4 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
Andre Wesson had success facilitating for teammates as well, sneaking in a pass to Kaleb Wesson for a layup early, and dishing a bounce pass to junior forward Kyle Young for a two-handed dunk with six minutes remaining in the first half.
The dunk was part of a sequence that saw Young score three straight buckets for Ohio State — all three at or around the rim — lifting the Buckeye lead to 30-15.
Freshman forward E.J. Liddell had his best offensive performance since the middle of December, putting up 10 points in 14 minutes. He was one of six Buckeyes to score in double figures on the night.
“We play with more life when we’re scoring points,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “Most teams do, but that can’t be what we’re just about.”
Kaleb Wesson was quiet on offense for most of the night, but finished with his seventh double-double of the season at 13 points and 14 boards.
Ohio State goes back on the road for its second matchup of the season with Penn State noon Saturday.