The Nebraska Cornhuskers have been on the wrong end of game-winning shots multiple times this season, including a 67-66 loss to Ohio State a month ago. In Saturday’s rematch with the Buckeyes, the Huskers were on the brink of another last-second heartbreaker. Instead, though, it was an And-1 bucket by Glynn Watson Jr. with 12 seconds to go and some heavy defensive pressure that earned Nebraska its seventh Big Ten win and first ever victory in Columbus.
It was a tough blow for the Buckeyes, who led nearly the entire game. But sloppy play and poor shooting did Ohio State in late as they continue to struggle in what will become Thad Matta’s first non-ten win season in the Big Ten in over a decade.
Here’s what we took from Nebraska’s 1-point victory:
What we learned:
1. Ohio State’s 3-point shooting is atrocious
The Ohio State Buckeyes have shot just 34 percent from 3-point range on the season. If they would have reached that mark Saturday, they probably would have won. Unfortunately for Matta’s bunch, the long ball wasn’t falling and it, frankly, wasn’t even close.
The Buckeyes were 30 percent from deep in the first half and finished just 5 of 17 (29 percent) from deep for the game. Only three players made a 3, and Marc Loving’s 3 for 7 (43 percent) was the tops for the team. Micah Potter was 33 percent, and Kam Williams was 20 percent.
Loving, Ohio State’s top 3-point shooter at 39 percent, hit a big 3 with 33 seconds left to give the Buckeyes a 5-point lead, but the poor shooting throughout the day allowed the Huskers to sit in a zone and chip away at the Ohio State lead.
2. Thad Matta needs a scorer
Going right along with the poor 3-point shooting, Ohio State’s offense was nonexistent down the stretch. Ohio State took the lead less than four minutes into the game and held it until Watson Jr.’s free throw with 12 seconds left. With 3:30 to play, Ohio State clung to a 7-point lead, an Nebraska missed an open 3-pointer. The Buckeyes missed another 3 at the other end that would have made it a 10-point game, a sign of things to come.
Ohio State went three minutes without scoring, stuck at 54. Loving’s 3 at the 33-second mark were the only points the Buckeyes scored in the final 3:30 of the game.
The problem for the Buckeyes is they don’t have anybody who can consistently hit a shot when the team desperately needs one. D’Angelo Russell averaged 19.3 points in 2014-15, and LaQuinton Ross averaged 15.2 the season before.
Since then, though, the Buckeyes haven’t had a player average more than 14 points per game, and without a deadeye 3-point sniper, it’s not rare for Ohio State to go on extended droughts.
That drought came at the worst time Saturday.
3. Keep an eye on Ed Morrow Jr.
The Huskers are 5-2 when Morrow plays, and they’re 1-6 without him.
The 6’7” sophomore averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds while playing 13.7 minutes a game as a freshman. He’s upped those numbers to 9.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG in almost 25 minutes a night this season.
He’s a 54-percent shooter — mostly around the rim — and is second in the team in blocks with 24, despite his seven games missed.
He kept the Huskers in the game early with a monster dunk that the had the Ohio State defense avoiding imminent posterization, and he manhandled Potter with a baseline drive for an easy layup.
Morrow finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just 15 minutes played as he spent much of the game in foul trouble. Had he not fouled out with almost five minutes still to play, the game might not have come down the final play.
With two more years left to play and Nebraska’s need for a game changer, Morrow could quickly become that guy — if he hasn’t already.
Saturday’s game didn’t mean much. Both Ohio State and Nebraska are fighting to move out of the depths of the Big Ten standings, and if Saturday’s matchup showed anything, it’s that both teams are playing to not screw up as much as their opponents.
Nebraska spoiled Ohio State’s game-long lead in the final 15 seconds, poetic for the Huskers, who have made their mark on the resumes of a number of the Big Ten’s tournament teams.
Still, both Nebraska and Ohio State have plenty of pieces to fill in the offseason to make that climb out of the conference’s basement.