Buckeyes bounce back, welcome Nebraska to Big Ten with 71-40 blowout
By Ben Axelrod
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If any members of the No. 6 Ohio State men’s basketball team (14-2, 2-1) were still thinking about the Buckeyes’ New Year’s Eve loss to Indiana, it wasn’t evident on Tuesday. Jared Sullinger scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Deshaun Thomas added in 15 points as the Buckeyes opened up 2012 with a 71-40 blowout win over Nebraska (8-6, 0-3).
Ohio State dominated from start to finish, opening up the first 11 minutes of the game with a 17-4 advantage and then never looked back. The Cornhuskers picked up their offense throughout the remainder of the first half, but just didn’t have the defense to hang with the Buckeyes, who entered intermission with a 44-20 lead after Sullinger hit a 3-point shot off of a broken inbounds play with five seconds remaining in the half.
“What we planned on doing was to have everybody come to me and then Will (Buford) was supposed to be open,” Sullinger said.
“But unfortunately, everybody went to Will and I was open. So I just shot the ball and it went in. Thanks to Will for being such a great offensive threat.”
The second half wasn’t any kinder to the Big Ten’s newcomer, who failed to match the Buckeyes’ first-half scoring effort over the course of the entire game.
Sullinger said that the OSU defense was the difference between Saturday’s loss in Bloomington and Tuesday’s win in Columbus.
“We just had intensity on the defensive end. We took pride in it. We finally drew a line,” Sullinger said.
“They scored multiple times, we finally drew the line and said, ‘enough is enough.’ I think that’s what extended the lead tonight.”
Ohio State’s increased attention to the defensive end was apparent—almost to a fault—as some sloppy play on offense resulted in the Buckeyes matching a season-high 19 turnovers against the Cornhuskers.
“We really try to pride ourselves in taking care of the basketball,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “We’re not good enough to turn the ball over 19 times or 17 times the other night. I know that for a fact.”
Despite the turnovers, the Buckeyes’ dominant performance still allowed Matta to delve into his bench early and often, with several OSU reserves seeing well above their season average in playing time.
Buford walked away from Tuesday night impressed with the performances of his younger teammates.
“They show that they’re competitive in practice when they go against, when we’re scrimmaging each other. They show that they want to get better every day,” said Buford, who scored 13 points, but had six turnovers to go with five rebounds and four assists.
“They was pretty careless with the ball, like how we all (were), but for the most part I think they did pretty good.”
One of those players who saw extended minutes was sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon, who ignited the crowd of 16,158 at Value City Arena with two thunderous dunks in addition to a highlight-reel block and alley-oop lay-up on consecutive possessions against Nebraska.
“Those are extraordinary plays and energy plays that we want,” Matta said. “We want our guys to understand that has a major impact. Those are effort plays.”
The Buckeyes will look for more of that effort—both on the defensive end of the floor and perhaps from Weatherspoon—when they return to action on Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes (9-6, 1-1).
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