LINCOLN, Neb. – Ohio State wasn’t about to let something like a depleted roster stop it from extending Nebraska’s misery.
Missing a pair of starters from the first meeting between the teams this season and also a player who could have seen extended minutes in their absence, the No. 23 Buckeyes (19-9, 9-8 Big Ten) hit nine of their first 11 shots and rode a depleted roster to a 75-54 win at Pinnacle Bank Arena that, at times, felt methodical.
The Cornhuskers (7-21, 2-15), in the first year of a complete rebuild under new coach Fred Hoiberg, have now lost 13 straight games.
Freshman D.J. Carton, who had 13 points and played 38 minutes in Ohio State’s 80-68 home win against Nebraska on Jan. 14, missed his eighth straight game while dealing with mental health issues. That wasn’t a surprise. Earlier in the day, though, the Buckeyes announced that junior forward Kyle Young would miss the game with an ankle injury suffered during Sunday’s win against No. 7 Maryland.
Furthering the attrition, freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney did not make the trip due to illness, giving coach Chris Holtmann only eight available scholarship players including freshman center Ibrahima Diallo, who entered the game having logged 37 minutes in six appearances this season.
None of it mattered when it came to the final score. Sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr., who replaced Young in the starting lineup to give the Buckeyes a three-guard look, hit three-pointers on Ohio State’s opening two possessions and then its fourth as well to score his team’s first nine points.
It helped set a tone, even if it wasn’t sustainable. Ohio State pushed its lead to 26-12 by only missing on two of its first 11 shots, but it would go on to miss 10 straight thanks to a combination of ill-advised drives and settling for three-point attempts.
When the Buckeyes broke that streak on a CJ Walker right-handed layup, it pushed the lead back to where it had been: 14 points.
And so it would go.
Kaleb Wesson posted his 11th double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. He also attempted a career-high 13 free throws and became the first Ohio State player to reach 15 rebounds since Jae’Sean Tate had 15 at Michigan on Feb. 18, 2018.