Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4) vs #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
January 2, 2013 :: 5:30 p.m.(CT) :: Value City Arena :: Columbus
TV :: Big Ten Network
Radio :: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network and Huskers.com
Big Ten play is here! Tim Miles will lead his Nebraska Cornhuskers team into Columbus to face off against Thad Motta's #8 Ohio State Buckeyes to open league play. Nebraska comes into the game coming off a 68-59 win over Nichols State. It was a good win for the Huskers and they had 4 players (Ray Gallegos, Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel, David Rivers) in double figures. The Huskers led by 19 against Nichols State but held on at the end just like the Jacksonville State game on December 18th.
Ohio State comes into the game after a blow out victory over Chicago State, 87-44. The Buckeyes had 5 players in double figures led by forward Deshaun Thomas with 17 points. Ohio State's defense was stellar as well, holding Chicago State to just 26% shooting in the game. The Huskers will face some quality opponents in the conference this season but it can be argued that this Buckeye team is the most talented and their only losses so far come to #1 Duke and #6 Kansas.
The Buckeyes will be led into this game by Preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas who has live up to the hype this season and is averaging 19.8 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game. Ohio State plays well on both end of the floor as they currently rank 28th in the nation in points per game with 78.3 and also rank 29th in the country in points allowed per game, giving up 57.5 a game.
The Huskers tend to struggle scoring against top opponents and they will need more than the 61 points per game they currently score to have shot to pull the upset. There is also some injury news as Tim Miles announced Mike Peltz will be out for the game with an injury. The Huskers are not a deep team so missing a key reserve is not ideal but can be overcome.
Here are some keys to the game:
Nebraska must continue to take care of the ball. The Huskers have done a nice job not turning the ball during the non conference schedule. They had 10 or fewer turnovers in 5 times in the first 13 games. To keep this game close, they will need to minimize giveaways so Ohio State doesn't get easy buckets and run up and down the floor. Making this a "track meet" will cause this one to get out of hand quickly.
Huskers need to start fast and stay hot. Its going to be imperative that the Huskers come into Columbus ready to take an initial punch from the Buckeyes. Games like this where one team is really outmatched tend to get ugly early with the underdog fighting back from the start. If the Huskers can start fast and hit shots early, they have a much better shot at hanging around and making a game of it. The last thing the Huskers need is to get down 15-3 and have Tim Miles needing that first timeout and searching for answers as the crowd is rocking.
Rely on the solid defense. My final key is tied to the fast start. If the Huskers can create turnovers early, making Ohio State play sloppy that would be huge. Points will be hard to come by for Nebraska but getting some buckets in transition or easy baskets around the rim could be key. Nebraska will need to play their best defensive game of the season to stay in this game. Creating offense off the defense will go a long way in the upset bid.
All in all, this Buckeye team is another level talent wise than the Huskers. The Buckeyes are a talented and deep team and the Huskers will have their hands full in this one. However, games like this can build a teams confidence especially being on the road, if they can play well and keep it close. Look for Tim Miles to stress to his team that they need to do the little things needed to not beat themselves. If the Huskers can keep it close late in the 2nd half, perhaps the pressure of an upset will get to Ohio State. That is easier said than done though.