The Ohio State men’s basketball team shook off a slow start Saturday afternoon and posted an 84-53 rout of visiting Nebraska at Value City Arena in OSU’s Big Ten home opener.
Bench play, not always a strength of a Thad Matta OSU squad, led the third-ranked Buckeyes (15-0, 2-0). Matta played nine players in the first half and 10 for the game, and Ohio State reserves outscored their Nebraska counterparts 38-12.
“I feel like our bench was probably our biggest key,” Matta said. “They gave us great energy. They got us ignited. It was a great win for us.”
Unsurprisingly then, a pair of bench players were among the leaders of the OSU attack. Sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle made all five of his field goal attempts, including three from beyond the arc, and finished with a game-high 15 points. Fellow reserve, freshman Marc Loving, added 13 points.
“We (bench players) just try to bring a lot of energy to the game,” Loving said. “Our energy off the bench can effect the game in a major way, whether it's scoring, rebounding or whatever it is.”
The duo were two of five Buckeyes to reach double figures in scoring. Starters Shannon Scott (13), LaQuinton Ross (11) and Amir Williams (10) also had solid offensive afternoons.
Ohio State shot 54.0 percent (27 of 50) for the game, including 47.4 percent (9 of 19) from three-point range. The Buckeyes out-rebounded NU 33-32 and scored 17 points off 13 Nebraska turnovers, while Ohio State only committed seven turnovers.
Nebraska was led by Terran Petteway, who scored a game-high 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Leslee Smith had a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite the lopsided final score, the upset-minded Cornhuskers (8-6, 0-2) kept the game close for much of the first half and led by as many as four at 14-10 with 12:55 left before halftime before the Buckeyes took command. The third-ranked Buckeyes broke a 19-19 tie at the under-eight minute timeout by outscoring NU 21-11 the rest of the half.
Ohio State took a 40-30 lead into the break thanks to a late run. Leading 33-30, the Buckeyes went on a 7-0 run in the final 1:18. Aaron Craft started the spurt with a three-point make. Amedeo Della Valle added a tip-in off his own miss and Sam Thompson closed the first-half scoring with a pair of free throws in the final seconds.
Defense sparked the run for the Buckeyes. Over that 1:18, OSU’s defense produced a steal and a pair of blocks – garnering a standing ovation from the 17,536 in attendance.
Nebraska got to within eight points on a Petteway basket with 18:34 remaining that cut the OSU lead to 44-36, but Ohio State scored the next 12 points to build the lead to 20 points (56-36) with 14:22 remaining.
From there Ohio State’s lead only dipped as low as 14 points before ending with its highest margin – 31 points.