Nebraska afforded Ohio State opportunity to get right before going to Minnesota
Chris Holtmann needed only four words of his most recent postgame news conference to use the word “unique.”
The descriptor was as apt as it was obvious Wednesday at Value City Arena. Four days after his Ohio State men’s basketball team let a late lead slip in a 71-70 road loss to Northwestern, the No. 25 Buckeyes got a cure for nearly everything that could ail them in the form of Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers had recently delivered scares to Big Ten foes Michigan and Wisconsin, but they put up as much resistance as a wet tissue in what would become a 90-54 OSU win.
At one point, the Buckeyes led by 41 points. The 36-point final margin went down as the biggest Big Ten win for Ohio State since a 104-62 road win against Northwestern on Jan. 10, 1991, when Holtmann was a 19-year-old freshman in college.
“(That) was a unique Big Ten game,” Holtmann said. “You don’t have many that are like that. As I’ve said, I’ve got a lot of respect for Nebraska. I think our guys were aware of that, and I think overall it was a really solid performance from our guys. I thought we were able to defend them with great purpose, had great technique, certainly made some shots (and) I thought our ball movement was exceptional.”
The 36-point margin edged a 32-point win against Penn State last December as the most lopsided Big Ten win during Holtmann’s four years with the Buckeyes. Against the Cornhuskers, the score was tied at 13 before Ohio State blew it open.
The win also gave the Buckeyes a boost following a one-point loss at Northwestern leading into Sunday’s game at No. 21 Minnesota.
“We didn’t want to lose that (Northwestern) game but coach made it an important deal to move forward, that that was done,” forward Justice Sueing said. “We had to learn from our mistakes and (against Nebraska) I think we did a really good job of taking that step forward.”
The Big Ten is rated as the best conference in the nation this year by seemingly every available metric. This week, nine teams from the conference are in the Associated Press top 25 poll, and all but one are ranked among the top 55 nationally according to KenPom.com.
The outlier is Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are ranked No. 122 under second-year coach Fred Hoiberg.
“You don’t have many Big Ten games where there’s this margin,” Holtmann said. “You don’t ever expect that, but I think they missed some shots they normally make and we made some shots.
“If we were to play them tomorrow the game very easily would look much different. We just probably caught them on a night and we had something to do with that. We played really well.”
The numbers lined up with the score. Ohio State shot 49.2% from the field, hit a season-high 12 three-pointers and held the visitors to 28.3% shooting. Five Ohio State players scored in double figures, led by Justin Ahrens’ 18 points.
Historically, the result mostly lined up with what the all-time series has been between the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers. Wednesday’s win was just barely Ohio State’s largest margin; the Buckeyes beat the Cornhuskers by 34 points, 79-45, in January 2012.
They also have won by 31 points on two occasions: 84-53 in 2014, and 71-40 in 2012. In all, the Buckeyes have won 18 of the last 20 games between the two schools.