After an 84-53 win against Nebraska on Jan. 4, the Buckeyes followed up that effort by dropping a 68-62 decision to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln less than three weeks later. It may be a next-to-impossible task, but let's try to find trends in OSU's success and shortcomings over the vastly different first two meetings of these teams as they prepare to fight for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Ohio State has played its best this season when several players have had good offensive performances instead of relying on the standout play of one or two Buckeyes. In facing Nebraska, that held true in both instances. Five Ohio State players scored between eight and 12 points in the loss, and six scored between nine and 15 points in the win.
In both cases, two of those players came off the bench. The first meeting between the two teams included huge performances from both Amedeo Della Valle (15 points, four rebounds) and Marc Loving (13 points, five rebounds). Speaking of which…
That Loving Feeling
Loving had quite a bit of success against the Huskers both times he faced them this season. Although the freshman forward is averaging just 4.6 points per contest this season, he's shown no signs of struggles against Nebraska. In addition to his 13-point showing, he also poured in eight points in the second matchup.
For all its struggles in the loss to the Cornhuskers, Ohio State still managed to turn the ball over at a high rate. Nebraska committed 17 turnovers in all, nine of which came from steals by a quartet of Buckeyes. Three weeks earlier, OSU's seven steals helped them force Nebraska into 13 total turnovers. In each case, Ohio State's number of turnovers forced far exceeded its turnovers committed.
That defensive prowess helped give Ohio State a significant shot advantage in the second game. The Buckeyes, of course, failed to take advantage – OSU shot under 40 percent from the field in the loss.
Hitting The Boards
Ohio State once again lost the overall boards battle to the Huskers, finishing with 60 rebounds to Nebraska's 65. For the Buckeyes, that total included just 12 offensive rebounds over the course of the two games. The failure to dominate the boards was a team-wide issue in both cases, as no Buckeye pulled down more than six rebounds in either contest against the Cornhuskers.
Center Of Attention
While Amir Williams did manage to pour in 10 points in the Jan. 4 game against Nebraska, that effort was slightly dimmed by the fact that he finished with just one rebound in 25 minutes of court time. His second game was even worse overall, as he produced just four points and three rebounds in the losing effort.
Backup center Trey McDonald couldn't get much going, either. After amassing four points and three rebounds in the 31-point win, McDonald barely saw the floor and recorded no points or rebounds in the second meeting with the Cornhuskers.
There's nothing but good things to say about the way that Ohio State handled its business on the offensive end in the first game. The Buckeyes shot 54 percent from the field and also managed an incredibly rare 47.4 percent effort from three-point range. Ohio State also shot a respectable 72.4 percent from the free-throw line.
The second contest was an entirely different story. Ohio State couldn't crack 40 percent from the field in the loss, and the three-point shooting returned to mediocrity with a 28.6 conversion percentage. Senior point guard Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 12 points, and eight of those came on free throws.
Since They Last Met
Because of a scheduling quirk that paired OSU and Nebraska on two separate occasions early in the Big Ten season, not many people knew what was to come for Tim Miles' squad. Although they put a scare into Michigan, the Huskers lost their first four Big Ten games before finally breaking through against the Buckeyes.
Since that point, Nebraska has played flat-out great basketball. The team picked by the media to finish dead last in the conference instead won eight of its last nine games to secure a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament with the No. 4 overall seed. Along the way, the Huskers secured a pair of critical wins at Michigan State and against Wisconsin on Senior Night. Both opponents were ranked in the top 10 at the time they faced Nebraska.