COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann came into his post-game news conference ready to talk about some good stuff for a change.
“It’s been awhile since I sat in front of you in a good mood,” Holtmann told the assembled media after No. 21 Ohio State snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Nebraska on Tuesday night. “It seems like forever.”
Actually, it was two weeks, since Dec. 21 when they Buckeyes beat Kentucky. They were 11-1 after that and rose to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 before the losing streak started after the Christmas break. That means 80-68 win over Nebraska was Ohio State's first win of 2020.
The Buckeyes seemed to find their way on the floor again, shooting 54.5% for the game after hitting a dismal 34% combined in the four losses.
“Confidence,” said guard C.J. Walker, who led Ohio State with 18 points. “Once we saw the ball fall in the first half, it just went from there. That's kind of all we needed to see. We’ve been playing defense really well, we just haven’t been making shots.”
Walker and freshman guard D.J. Carton both logged more than 37 minutes each because of the suspension of guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. Carton had 13 points to go along with five assists, and stalwart big man Kaleb Wesson added 13 points and 14 rebounds.
The Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) took charge early and rolled over the Cornhuskers, whose transfer-heavy lineup is still learning to play together. Ohio State led by as 25 in the second half.
Thorir Thorbjarnarson paced Nebraska (7-10, 2-4) with 15 points and three players had 10. The Huskers shot 42.4% in losing their second in a row.
“They were a confident team tonight,” first-year Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said of Ohio State. “You know, you go through stretches where you don’t shoot the ball as well as you’d like. But when this team knocks down shots, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
FINALLY SOME BASKETS
Ohio State had failed to score 60 points in the string of four losses. On Tuesday, it reached that number during a 12-0 run before the mid-way point of the second half.
Ohio State started the game 0 for 5. Then Andre Wesson hit three straight 3-pointers and the Buckeyes took off from there.
“It gave us a big jolt of confidence,” Holtmann said.
Nebraska: The Huskers hoped to come to Columbus and catch Ohio State at the bottom of a slump, but it wasn't going to happen. They shot better in the second half but couldn't keep up with the more polished Buckeyes.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes were reeling and needed a feel-good game like this, even if it was against an over-matched opponent. They seemed to get their shooting eye back after struggling mightily getting the ball in the basket in the past two weeks. Fun fact: Last January's five-game losing streak also ended with a loss to Nebraska.
“I just think there’s so much basketball left, and it's not the end of the ups and downs,” Holtmann said. "We've had some better practices here as of late. I'm just anxious to see how that continues, and I'm anxious to see collectively what our approach and attitude is consistently. I think when we see that consistently and feel good about that, then I’ll live with results.”
ABOUT THOSE SUSPENSIONS
Ohio State announced shortly before the game that Muhammad and Washington would be suspended. It’s not clear what they did or if they will sit out for more games. Holtmann said it's “day to day.”
Nebraska: Hosts Indiana on Saturday.
Ohio State: At Penn State on Saturday.
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