The Huskers had hoped for a longer stay in Indianapolis, riding the wave of a winning streak that found them as the four seed in this year's Big Ten Tournament. It wasn't to be. Even magic carpet rides come to an end. The Huskers hope this one is just a pitstop before starting another one next week.
After the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Purdue Boilermakers yesterday, they openly talked about getting another shot at the Huskers and how watching the Red Zone, the Nebraska student section, rush the court after Big Red knocked off the Buckeyes back in January in what turned out to be the start of the winning ways for NU. Had the Buckeye's looked past Purdue? For their matchup with the Huskers? It sure seemed that way and the way the Buckeye's started this game, it only led more credence to the theory, jumping out to an 11-3 lead.
The Huskers looked as if the pressure and spotlight had gotten to them. But the Huskers responded, enough so to charge all the way back. The Huskers withstood the Buckeye's charge and settled into their groove and took the game over. The Huskers took the lead into halftime and everything looked roses for NU. They took OSU's best shot and still had the lead. That's what good basketball teams do. NU looked like a good basketball team.
When the second half started, NU took complete control. OSU started missing shots. NU's defense swarmed the boards, forced the Buckeyes into turnovers, attacked the rim and got to the free throw line. OSU was punchless, staggered, up against the ropes. They had no answer for the Huskers and NU went for the throat. That's what great teams do. NU looked like a great basketball team.
Then Shavon Shields picked up his fourth foul with 10:34 left in the game and was forced to the bench. Ohio State ratcheted up the pressure. They started face guarding all inbounding opportunities and the Huskers struggled to do just that. When they did get the ball in bounds, they struggled to get it across the mid court stripe. They started getting tentative on offensive, not attacking the rim, the very thing that was pivotal to their success in building this lead. Their offensive frustration led to lapses on defense as well. That's what bad basketball teams do. NU looked like a bad basketball team.
Next thing you know, the Ohio State Buckeyes had come all the way back. The Huskers looked like they had never been on this stage before. OSU looked like they had. With 1:52 to play, Terran Petteway picked up his fourth foul, sending LaQuentin Ross to the free throw line. He hit them both, tying the game. A minute later, Petteway picked up his fifth foul and the Huskers were not able to pick up his slack. NU who once led by 18 points, were not able to recover. OSU scored the next four points. NU trailed and would not draw even again.
This loss should not knock the Huskers out of the tournament. It does knock a little bit of the shine off of Selection Sunday, something the Huskers had hoped would be a crowning moment after a successful weekend in Indianapolis. It wasn't in the cards this time. The Huskers got force fed some medicine instead. The Huskers instead will head back to Lincoln, regroup and wait with everyone else to see where they end up next week. Sunday their fate will be revealed and a new adventure will begin.