Ohio State rolls past Nebraska in Big Ten opener

Ben Axelrod, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After just one Big Ten game, both Ohio State and Nebraska find themselves with similar feelings about conference play.
Behind 22 points and eight rebounds from forward Deshaun Thomas, the eighth-ranked Buckeyes beat the Cornhuskers 70-44 in the Big Ten opener for both squads Wednesday night.
"I was really happy with Deshaun because they threw a little bit something different at him and not only he, but the other guys read it well," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said after the game. "We seemed to have a little bit more of an understanding of what we needed to do every time down the floor."
After having its season opener to Marquette canceled and losing to Duke and Kansas in its out-of-conference schedule, the Ohio State win was its first against a BCS opponent this season. Meanwhile, Nebraska's blowout loss marks a disappointing start to conference play, which saw the Huskers finish last in the league with a 4-14 record a season ago.
Conference play won't get any easier for Nebraska moving forward, with games against Wisconsin, second-ranked Michigan and No. 18 Michigan State looming.
"Let's just say the Big Ten office didn't get a Christmas card from me," first-year Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.
Opening the second half on a 10-2 run, Ohio State (11-2, 1-0) appeared to put the game out of hand by extending its lead to 27 points with 17 minutes remaining. Nebraska (9-5, 0-1) answered with a 7-2 run to shrink the Buckeyes' lead to 12 points but quickly saw any chances of an upset slip away as OSU stretched its lead to as many as 31 points.
With such a large margin separating the two squads, one of the few second half highlights came when Buckeyes forward Sam Thompson completed a one-handed alley-oop dunk off of a pass from point guard Shannon Scott.
"That was his best dunk," Thomas said of Thompson. "He caught it, he signed it, and he put it in."
Junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 17 points for the Buckeyes on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including a career-best five made three-pointers. Ray Gallegos scored a team-high 14 points for the Huskers, who were held to 30.4 percent shooting from the field.
"The defense was very effective. Guys were communicating," Matta said. "They ran a lot of different things in the first half. They picked up on them and challenged shots, which was the game for us."
Through its first 20 minutes of Big Ten action this season, Ohio State looked every bit like a three-time defending league champion, taking a 36-17 lead over Nebraska into halftime.
Behind seven points from Thomas, the Buckeyes raced out to an 11-3 lead over the Cornhuskers in the first five minutes. Nebraska never got closer than five points against Ohio State, which held the Huskers to 25.9 percent shooting from the field before intermission.
"We're starting to understand and we're starting to see that we can play pretty good team defense when we want to," Ohio State guard Aaron Craft said. "Whenever everyone's kind of into it, everyone's connected, everyone's talking and communicating, that's always the biggest sign is if we're talking to each other. You get into Big ten play and there are no secrets."
Thomas led the Buckeyes in scoring in the first half with 18 points. Dylan Talley headed to the locker room as Nebraska's leading scorer with seven points.
NOTES: For the second consecutive game, Amir Williams started at center for Ohio State. The sophomore finished the game with eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes of action. ... Nebraska starting center Andre Almeida was helped off the court with 4:21 remaining in the first half and did not return. Miles said he suffered a significant ankle sprain. ... With three steals, Craft passed David Lighty as No. 2 on Ohio State's career list. The junior guard and reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year now is 10 steals behind Jay Burson for the school record of 204.

What to Read Next