William Buford is the lone senior on a young and promising Ohio State team, so keeping him on the floor is essential.
After Buford struggled with foul trouble in his last game, a visit from Nebraska presents the captain and his teammates with a solid opportunity to bounce back from their second loss.
The sixth-ranked Buckeyes meet the Cornhuskers on Tuesday night, trying to keep the newest member of the Big Ten winless in conference play.
Ohio State dropped four spots in the AP poll this week following a 74-70 loss at then-No. 13 Indiana on Saturday. Aaron Craft scored 16 points and Jared Sullinger added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Buckeyes (13-2, 1-1), who struggled with foul trouble and had 17 turnovers.
Sullinger, Buford and DeShaun Thomas each finished with four fouls as the teams combined for 48 free throws.
Buford, Ohio State's leader with 16.1 points per game, was forced to sit after he picked up his fourth foul with 16:18 left in the game. He didn't return until there was 7:38 to go and finished with eight points, missing a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with about 5 seconds to play.
"We've got to learn to play through that," coach Thad Matta said. "It's one of those things you've got to learn, to play with the foul trouble."
Ohio State opened Big Ten play with an 87-54 win over Northwestern on Wednesday - its fifth straight victory following a 78-67 loss at then-No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 10. Buford had a career-high 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the win over the Wildcats.
He and the Buckeyes will now look to extend the Cornhuskers' winless start in conference play.
A visit to Columbus continues a tough initiation into the Big Ten for Nebraska (8-5, 0-2), which has lost 64-40 to then-No. 11 Wisconsin and 68-55 to then-No. 16 Michigan State at home.
After shooting 30.6 percent against the Badgers, the Cornhuskers connected on 36.0 percent of their shots versus the Spartans on Saturday.
Nebraska actually led by one at halftime, but Michigan State opened the second half on a 20-4 run to take a 49-34 lead with 13:38 left. The Cornhuskers got as close as three but shot 30.8 percent after the break.
Despite his team's struggles in its new conference, coach Doc Sadler thinks victories will come.
"As long as we continue to compete, we're going to have some shots at it," Sadler said. "We have to figure out how to finish it off. You're at home with a four- or five-point deficit last 4-5 minutes, you have to figure out how to win it. We had some opportunities. We just didn't capitalize."
Nebraska was without 6-foot-11 center Jorge Brian Diaz (sore feet) for a fourth straight game and guard Dylan Talley (thigh bruise).
It's not certain if either will return Tuesday, and their absences have further hurt an offense averaging 63.8 points - 11th among the 12 Big Ten teams.
Leading scorer Bo Spencer, averaging 15.1 points on 38.3 percent shooting, has scored 20 in the first two conference games while shooting 6 of 27 (22.2 percent).
Ohio State leads the all-time series 4-2, winning the last three. The Buckeyes posted an 85-74 victory in the 1989 NIT in the last meeting.
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