The win improves Ohio State to 17-1 at home and gets the Buckeyes back in the win column after consecutive road losses in the state of Michigan. Here is what I took away from the Buckeyes big win.
- Seniors step up: While this team is led by freshmen, the Buckeyes need their seniors to contribute in order to maximize their potential. Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson set the tone early against Nebraska, scoring nine of the team's first 12 points. Those points were fueled by defensive intensity, which is how those players need to get going.
- Loving back? Marc Loving scored just six points in the win, but all of them came from behind the arc. Those were the first two threes the sophomore has hit since returning from suspension after going 0-4 against Michigan and Michigan State.The Buckeyes need him to work back into things and Matta said he thinks Loving is close.
- Tate's efficiency: Not only did Jae'sean Tate score a career-high 22 points, he did it on just nine shots. The freshman was 8-of-9 on the night, his lone miss a three that bounced off the rim twice before falling outside the cylinder. Had that shot fallen he would have matched the Ohio State record set by John Havlicek when the Hall of Famer went 9-of-9.
- Russell is a wizard: Though he scored just 11 points and sat the final 12:44 with cramps, D'Angelo Russell still made one play that made me say wow. With 13:55 remaining in the first half he split two defenders outside the three-point arc and cut into the lane. It appeared he was going to hit an Ohio State player for a corner three but at the last minute fired a bullet Tate who was cutting along the baseline. How he saw that develop is beyond me. He is an incredible scorer, but his vision is the most impressive part of Russell's game to me.
- Phil Jackson in attendance: Coaching legend and current member of the New York Knicks front office Phil Jackson had a seat behind the scorer's table for the game Thursday, no doubt to check out the talents of Russell. The Zen Master took his seat minutes before tipoff, but was happy to sign some things for nearby students. Both Matta and Nebraska coach Tim Miles joked that they should have run Jackson's famed triangle offense after the game.
- 20 wins for Matta …. again: The victory over the Cornhuskers improves Ohio State to 20-8 on the season. That marks 15 straight seasons (11 with Ohio State) that Thad Matta has gotten to 20 wins, meaning he has never failed to reach that mark in his career. While not the landmark it used to be, 20 wins is still a remarkable accomplishment. And yet, Matta still faces criticism from certain corners of the Buckeye fan base.
The Buckeyes hit their first four attempts form behind the arc with one each coming from Thompson and Scott. When those two are hitting threes, something they are both much better at in Value City Arena, this is a different Ohio State team.
“We definitely need Marc to score," the coach said. "I thought Marc played a lot better than he did Sunday, especially on the defensive end. Without a doubt getting him back and hopefully hitting his stride will make us a better basketball team.”
The Knicks entered Thursday with the worst record in the NBA and Russell is a consensus Top 5 pick in the 2015 NBA draft should he leave school early.
Seriously, guys? Matta, in my opinion, is the best coach in Ohio State history. He is three wins from tying Fred Taylor for the most in school history and is poised to do it in seven fewer seasons. Taylor has a national championship, the one thing missing from Matta’s resume. You can argue with certain coaching decisions that Matta makes (you’ll probably be wrong, because he knows more about basketball than you), but anyone hiding behind their keyboard and calling for Matta to be fired needs a reality check.