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January 3, 2012On the heels of back-to-back losses to start Big Ten Conference play, the last thing Nebraska wanted to do was travel to take on No. 7 Ohio State to try and get its season back on track.
Playing against a Buckeye team that had won 34 straight home games coming into Tuesday's contest the Huskers were completely dominated from the opening tip in a 71-40 blowout in Columbus, Ohio.
"Going into the game, you knew that you were going to be playing an awefully good basketball team, and that's what we played against," head coach Doc Sadler said during his post-game radio interview on the Husker Sports Network. "In the first half when we were struggling offensively, we missed six or eight easy points, and when that happened then our defense started giving up a little bit easier than what we normally would give up, and offensive boards were something that when we would stop them they would get second and third opportunities.
"You add all those things together, and that's what you come up with. We're just having a hard time scoring right now, and every opportunity that we get, we've got to make sure that we take advantage of it, and that's not the case right now."
After senior point guard Bo Spencer picked up a steal and a lay-up for the game's first bucket, Ohio State responded by going on a 17-2 run with the help of seven NU turnovers.
It would only get worse from the Huskers from there, as Ohio State kept right on rolling throughout the first half and took its biggest lead of the half on a 3-pointer by Sullinger with just 4.1 left to go up 44-20.
By the time the buzzer sounded to end the first half, Ohio State had out-shot Nebraska by almost double, making 68 percent from the field to just 33 percent. The Buckeyes outscored NU 26-12 in the paint, while the Huskers committed more turnovers (11) than field goals (eight).
"We were down, and the only thing that I told (the team) is 'now you're playing for two things: you're playing for the name of the front for your jersey and you're playing for the name on the back of your jersey," Sadler said. "'You've got to play for both. You've got to be able to look yourself in the mirror too and say man, I didn't quit and continued to compete.' I thought for the most part in the second half we did do that."
As if a 24-point halftime deficit wasn't enough, Ohio State continued to pour it on in the second half.
The Huskers were simply no match for All-American center Jared Sullinger and Co. inside, as the Buckeyes pounded the ball to the basket on seemingly every possession and eventually took their biggest lead of the game at 33 on a bucket by forward Evan Ravenel that made it 65-32 with 8:16 remaining in the game.
Ohio State would equal that lead two more times down the stretch, and a pair of free throws by senior guard Brandon Richardson with 28 seconds left allowed the Huskers to tie their season-low scoring out put at 40 points.
When all was said and done, Nebraska had shot just 30.8 percent from the field and 18 percent (2-of-18) from 3-point range while committing 17 turnovers. Ohio State on the other hand shot a staggering 81 percent on 2-point field goals, out-scored the Huskers 42-26 and out-rebounded them 44-21.
"They've got a nice basketball team, there's no question about that," Sadler said. "But as I said before, when you come into this situation, you've got to have almost everything go your way, and anything that doesn't go your way, then you're going to come up on the short end. Unfortunately we had three or four things that didn't go our way."
Sullinger ended the night with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while forward Deshaun Thomas scored 15 points and guard William Buford added 13 for the Buckeyes. Senior guard Toney McCray led Nebraska with 13 points and Spencer scored 10 and Richardson finished with nine points and seven steals.
Off to an 0-3 start in Big Ten play, the Huskers now have to travel to take on an Illinois squad on Saturday that is 12-3 on the year and 10-1 at home. With the season already teetering on the brink, time is running out for NU to show some signs of life.
"We've played three awfully good basketball teams, and I'd like to sit here and say that surprised me - no, they didn't surprise me," Sadler said. "I knew they were going to be good. I knew it was going to be tough. We've just got to continue to get better."
Around the rim
***Nebraska was once again with the services of center Andre Almeida, forward Jorge Brian Diaz and guard Dylan Talley, as all three continue to be sidelined with injury. Sadler said he was still unsure when any would be able to return to action.
"Who knows what's going to happen?" Sadler said. "I know that they want to play, but at the same time they feel that they can't play enough to help us. No one wants to get out there when they can't help you, but at some point they've got to get out there and try, and I'm sure that they'll do that."
***McCray's 13 points marked his fifth straight game scoring in double figures, the longest stretch of his career.
***Richardson seven steals were a career high and were just one shy of tying Nebraska's single-game record.
***The Huskers' 21 rebounds were also a season low.
***One of the more puzzling quotes from Sadler came regarding Nebraska's shot clock violation on its opening possession.
"To me, that's not all that bad of a possession," he said. "It's almost like a punt."