The No. 6 Buckeyes cruised Tuesday night, blasting the Cornhuskers 71-40 in front of an announced attendance of 16,158 at Value City Arena.
Ohio State's defensive intensity told the story, according to head coach Thad Matta and his charges. The Buckeyes held Nebraska to 16-of-52 shooting (30.8 percent) from the field and were the beneficiaries of 17 Cornhusker turnovers.
"Intensity, that was the biggest thing," sophomore center Jared Sullinger said. "We had intensity on the defensive end. We took pride in it. We drew a line and said, ‘Enough is enough.' "
Of course, offensive success didn't hurt either. Ohio State (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) remained unbeaten at home this season and had little trouble with the shorthanded Cornhuskers (8-6, 0-3), who were without injured standouts in center Jorge Brian Diaz and Dylan Talley. After Nebraska tied the game 4-4 with 17:21 left in the first half on a layup by Brandon Ubel, Ohio State rattled off 13 unanswered points to build a 17-4 lead and take command. Senior William Buford, sophomores Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas and junior Evan Ravenel each scored baskets during the burst.
Sophomore spark plug Aaron Craft did not score during the run but added a steal and an assist.
After the Buckeyes built their lead, Nebraska never got within single digits. Four times the Cornhuskers got within 10 in the first half, but after the final time – coming at the 6:14 mark on a layup by Corey Hilliard Jr. that made it 23-13 – Ohio State closed the half on 21-7 run. Two plays stood out during the final first-half stretch. The first came courtesy of sophomore J.D. Weatherspoon, who was rewarded for his hustle when he blocked a Nebraska shot and raced down the court. Craft scooped up the loose ball and found a sprinting Weatherspoon for an easy lay-in with 1:34 left.
The final first-half highlight came from Sullinger, who took an inbounds pass in the final seconds and made an open three to the delight of the crowd. It gave OSU a 44-20 lead at the break.
"What we planned on doing was to have (all of the defenders) come with me, and then Will was supposed to be open, but unfortunately everybody went with Will and I was open," Sullinger said. "I just shot the ball and it went in.
"Thanks to Will for being such a great offensive threat," Sullinger added with a smile.
The Buckeyes emptied their bench in the second half. All of Ohio State's players but freshmen LaQuinton Ross and Trey McDonald played in the first half, and both Ross and McDonald saw times after halftime.
Three Buckeyes finished in double figures in scoring, led by Sullinger's 19. Thomas added 15 and Buford netted 13. Both were on the bench well before the final horn. Ohio State shot 53.6 percent from the floor on 30-of-56 shooting.
The main lowlight for Ohio State came from its 19 turnovers.
"We were careless with the ball tonight," said Buford. "But our defense was the key to the game."
Nebraska was led by a 13-point, five-rebound performance by senior guard Tony McCray. Brandon Richardson had 11 and Bo Spencer added 10. No other Cornhusker scored more than two points, and only three other players scored for Nebraska.
The final score was not pretty, nor were many of the other stats in the final box score. Ohio State's size was too much for the Huskers. The Buckeyes outrebounded UNL 44-21 and Sullinger nearly had as many as the Huskers with 12. Ohio State finished with a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint and had a 12-2 lead in second-chance points.
Sullinger said practice following the loss to Indiana were tough. Matta called it vigorous and challenging. No matter what you call it, the efforts brought out a solid effort against the Cornhuskers.
"We kind of needed that," Sullinger said. We gave up that game against Indiana. Not taking anything away from Indiana, but there were a couple of possessions where when we watched film we realized that that's not us. We didn't play like us that whole time in Bloomington. (Matta) wasn't very polite, and that's what we needed to come into this game and put fire back in our bellies."
• The win was Ohio State's 35th in a row at home. The Buckeyes' last loss at Value City Arena was to Michigan on Feb. 27, 2010. Only Duke and Kentucky have longer home winning streaks.
• The Buckeyes improved to 5-2 all time against Nebraska.
• Craft finished with three steals. He has had at least one in every game this season.
• Sullinger had as many offensive rebounds (six) as Nebraska had in the same category.
• Nebraska had lost its previous two Big Ten games to Wisconsin and Michigan State, both in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers began conference play with three straight games against ranked foes for the first time in program history.