Most of Nebraska’s losses this season have followed the same script: the Huskers compete for 25 to 30 minutes before a big run by the opponent puts the game out of reach.
The competitiveness part lasted all of eight minutes on Wednesday, however, as Nebraska’s 90-54 loss to No. 25 Ohio State was essentially one big Buckeye run from start to finish. The Huskers are now 0-3 in Big Ten play this season and have dropped 20 straight league contests dating back to Jan. 7.
The 36-point margin of defeat is the largest of of that streak.
“I thought we were competing very well in the Michigan game for the most part and for a lot of the Wisconsin game, for the Creighton game for that matter,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “But we’re hitting that stretch in pretty much every game where the wheels fall off and we have to fix it.”
Nebraska (4-6) shot 28.3% from the field including 15.2% from 3. The Huskers knocked down just five of their 33 attempts from beyond the arc and converted just 10 of their 21 layup attempts. After posting a season-low six assists against Michigan, the Huskers managed just half that total against the Buckeyes while turning the ball over 15 times.
“I’ve never seen a three-to-15 assist-to-turnover ratio as far as being in the seat that I’m in right now,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of it was missing shots early. I thought we did make some good plays, good passes and we didn’t make it. And then I thought we had some good passes early to create shots at the rim in the restricted area and we didn’t make them, we didn’t finish. Then I thought we did have some individuals play out there at times as well.”
Teddy Allen was the only Husker with more than seven points as he finished with 13 on 3-of-9 from the field (2-of-5 from 3) and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. He also had two of Nebraska’s three assists.
The Buckeyes had five players score in double figures led by Justin Ahrens with 18 on 6-of-9 3-point shooting in just 20 minutes. Freshman center Zed Key added 14 points and four boards off the bench, hitting all five of his field goals and four of his six free throws. Ohio State only outscored Nebraska 15-14 in second-chance points, but the Buckeyes were plus-eight in the paint and made a season-high 12 3-pointers, shooting 37.5% from deep.
Yvan Ouedraogo is one of just two players who was on the team and playing during the Huskers’ 2-18 Big Ten campaign a season ago, but he doesn’t really see much similarity between last year’s team and this year’s despite Wednesday’s result.
“I really don’t think there’s anything similar,” Ouedraogo said. “I think that people really care more about winning this year. People are working more, we’re in the gym. So I don’t think it’s the same thing as last year. I just feel like we need to win, we need to start winning and just believe in ourselves and see that we can do it. I feel like we have a good group. Once we figure that out, it’s going to be good.”
Nebraska knocked down a couple of 3s early to offset Ohio State’s advantage in the paint and knot the game up at 13-all just before the seven-minute mark.
Then Nebraska went ice-cold and the Buckeyes started to knock down some shots. The Huskers went just over six minutes without scoring as the Buckeyes put together a 15-0 run and pulled ahead 28-13.
Shamiel Stevenson finally ended the drought with a free throw, then Lat Mayen tacked on two more foul shots on the next possession.
Nebraska got to the free-throw line a few more times but the field goal drought continued. The Huskers went a full 10:14 between buckets, missing 13 straight shots from the field as Ohio State pulled ahead 33-18.
“I saw a ton of energy on our bench early in the game, I saw a ton of energy from our players early in the game,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we missed some really good shots in those first 10 minutes that kind of set the tone for the game. As it went on, I thought it affected us on the other end and then they overwhelmed us with their physicality which is what that team does. They play through their bigs, they got it inside and then they sprayed it out and our closeouts weren’t good enough. I think our offensive struggles are causing some of that right now, and mentally, I think it’s wearing on them more individually on what they can do to take the lid off that hoop.”
Trey McGowens finally broke the streak with a corner 3 after an offensive rebound and kick-out by Ouedraogo, but Nebraska went scoreless for the final three minutes as Ohio State took a 38-21 lead into halftime.
The Huskers shot 6-of-29 (20.7%) from the field, 3-of-16 (18.8%) from 3 and 6-of-9 from the free-throw line with seven turnovers. Nebraska went 2-for-10 on layups. Leading scorers Allen and Dalano Banton went a combined 3-of-15 from the field for 10 points in the first half.
“It’s just unfortunate that we can’t throw that thing in the ocean right now,” Hoiberg said. “But it can’t affect your overall approach to the little things that can keep you in a game like this. I think we went the last 13 minutes with one field goal, of the half, and missed the front end of a one-and-one in that stretch, missed a couple wide open shots. We were 2-for-10 at the rim. It’s hard to stay in games against a really good team when you have those kinds of percentages. But you have to find a way to continue to compete and battle and we’ll see what we’re made of.”
The Huskers scored on two of their first three possessions before the offense dried up again as the Buckeyes put together a 28-3 run to pull ahead 70-29. Allen picked up his third and fourth fouls before the 17-minute mark and took a seat for a while.
Trevor Lakes converted his first 2-pointer as a Husker with a put-back at the nine-minute mark, part of a 6-0 run for Nebraska that cut the deficit to 35. The Huskers got no closer than that the rest of the way until an and-one put-back by freshman Eduardo Andre in the final minute. Ohio State shot 8-of-18 from deep in 54.8% overall in the second half.
The Huskers will return home to host a Michigan State team that also dropped its first three conference games of the season including an 81-56 loss to Minnesota on Monday.
“We’re playing a team on Saturday and they just went through something we went through,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll see who’s going to respond to it. They obviously had a very tough game at Minnesota, we had the game we had tonight.”
Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.