COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Playing just their second game in their own arena in the last 28 days, the Ohio State Buckeyes felt right at home.
Jae’Sean Tate scored a career-high 22 points, Sam Thompson added 15 and Shannon Scott 13 to lead the Buckeyes past Nebraska 81-57 on Thursday night, the Cornhuskers’ sixth loss in a row.
“It definitely feels good to be home,” said Tate, who was 8 for 9 from the field, 1 of 2 on 3-pointers and 5 of 6 at the line. “It feels like we haven’t been home in forever.”
Not quite that long. But playing only their second game at Value City Arena this month, unlike many of their recent road games they jumped out to a quick lead and never allowed the opponent to get back in the game.
“Ohio State’s start was really the key to the game,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “Their defensive pressure did a good job of standing the ball up, and then that got us standing around. We had three turnovers that led out to easy run-out layups and dunks. If you’re going to contend here, you can’t get down early.”
The Buckeyes (20-8, 9-6 Big Ten) rolled to a 42-24 halftime lead, taking the lead for good with a 12-0 run built on five points by Scott, four by Thompson and D’Angelo Russell’s 3-pointer. When the Cornhuskers (13-15, 5-11) came out with two quick 3-pointers by Tarin Smith in the second half, the Buckeyes pulled away again, with Thompson hitting a 3 to push the lead to 55-38 and out of reach. Thompson was 3 for 3 behind the arc.
Russell had 11 points and six assists before leaving with leg cramps for the Buckeyes, who had lost their last two.
Tarin Smith had 13 points, Terran Petteway 12 and David Rivers 10 points and 11 rebounds for Nebraska, which fell to 0-8 in conference road games.
When Ohio State played at Rutgers on Feb. 8, several NBA scouts were on hand to take notes on Russell, who didn’t disappoint with a triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta, who now has led his teams to 20 wins or more in all 15 of his seasons as a head coach, had his picture taken with Jackson before the game.
“I thought about calling for the triangle (offense) and then (winking at Jackson),” he said with a laugh.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were coming off what their own game notes called their “poorest effort of the season” in a 28-point home loss to Iowa on Sunday afternoon.
After that game, Nebraska coach Tim Miles was so angry that he barred his players from its plush home locker room. He also forbade any players from speaking to reporters, saying he would be the lone person representing the program.
The Cornhuskers’ $19-million practice facility, which opened in 2011, includes heated towel racks and iPod plug-ins in the showers.
Miles said the players could find their own place to shower after practices: “Good luck. They’re creative people.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes appeared to be a lock for the NCAA tournament just three weeks ago. Then they lost three of five, and looked bad doing it.
Most mock brackets have them as an 8 or 9 seed.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are off until March 4 when they travel to play Illinois, then close out the regular season with No. 14 Maryland at home on March 8.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes host Purdue on Sunday, are at Penn State on Wednesday and entertain No. 5 Wisconsin in the last game before the Big Ten tournament on March 8.
THE ZEN MASTER
Eleven-time NBA champion Phil Jackson, team president of the New York Knicks, sat in the first row at midcourt while scouting D’Angelo Russell. Most mock drafts have Russell, a freshman, going in the top handful of picks should he elect to jump into the draft early.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
Miles rushed out on the court just before the starting lineups were announced. He said it was a miscommunication stemming from the National Anthem being played early. He wasn’t even fully dressed when he realized how close it was to the opening tip.
“Actually, man, I really cleaned up good, in a hurry,” he said. “That’s the only damn thing I did right all night.”
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