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(11) Ohio State (16-4) at Nebraska (11-11)
Saturday, February 2, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595) -- Lincoln, Nebraska. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Ohio State 12-1, Nebraska 8-5. Away Record: Ohio State 2-3, Nebraska 2-6. Neutral Record: Ohio State 2-0, Nebraska 1-0. Conference Record: Ohio State 6-2, Nebraska 2-7. Series Record: Ohio State leads, 7-2.
GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will try to complete the season sweep of the Nebraska Cornhuskers when the two teams get together on Saturday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
Ohio State is seeking its fourth straight win after knocking off Wisconsin at home on Tuesday night, 58-49. Presently, the Buckeyes are 16-4 overall and 6-2 in conference, just off the first-place pace set by both Michigan and Indiana, who play each other tonight as well. Despite its success this season, OSU is just 2-3 in true road games, although the team did manage to record a victory in its last outing away from Columbus (65-51 at Penn State last weekend).
Nebraska is an even 11-11 for the season, but it has recorded just two wins since the calendar turned to 2013, and it has seven league losses already on the books. The Cornhuskers suffered an 84-65 defeat at Minnesota earlier this week, but the team does have a favorable mark at home (8-5), although only one of those victories has come against a Big Ten foe (64-49 over Northwestern last Saturday).
Ohio State earned a 70-44 home win over Nebraska back on Jan. 2 in the conference opener for both teams, elevating its lead in the all-time series to 7-2. Overall, the Buckeyes have won the last six meetings between the two teams.
Ohio State continues to get it done at both ends the court, as the team averages 72.2 ppg while permitting just 57.3 ppg. The Buckeyes, who boast just two double-digit scorers in star Deshaun Thomas (20.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg), are shooting 46.1 percent from the floor, which includes a 37.5 percent showing from 3-point range. At the same time, they limit the opposition to 37.9 percent field goal efficiency while logging both a +5.3 rebounding margin and a +2.5 turnover differential. Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring, hit for 25 points in the recent win over visiting Wisconsin, which was nearly half of his team's entire point total. Aaron Craft scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Buckeyes, who made good on 51.1 percent of their total shots, which included a 3-of-5 effort from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Badgers were just 36.5 percent successful on their field goal attempts, and they failed to attempt even one free throw.
Despite having three double-digit scorers on the roster, Nebraska is the lowest scoring team in the conference (58.8 ppg), as it connects on only 41.7 percent of its field goal attempts, including 30.7 percent from long range. The Cornhuskers have actually performed well at the defensive end against most opponents, yielding just 62.2 ppg. The team is in the red in rebounding margin (-2.6), but just over the break-even point in turnovers (+0.2). Ray Gallegos (13.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Dylan Talley (13.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Brandon Ubel (12.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg) do their best to put NU in position to win, but they can't do it alone. At some point it might benefit Gallegos and the team if he were to give the ball up more, as he has attempted 174 3-point baskets, converting just 55 (.316), which is almost twice as many as his closest teammate (Talley, 30- of-93). Although if the last game is any indication, that's not going to happen any time soon as the 6-foot-2 junior guard drained six treys in netting a career-high 30 points. Unfortunately, the Huskers simply couldn't stop the Golden Gophers in what turned out to be a 19-point setback. Ubel added 13 points and Shavon Shields chipped in 10 for a Nebraska squad that shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the opening half, finishing at 54.5 percent, and made good on 9-of-14 launches from downtown.
The hometown Huskers will surely put their best foot forward in an effort to pull off the upset, but there is little chance of that happening. The Buckeyes are simply better in all phases of the game, and it really shouldn't take long for them to impose their will.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 71, Nebraska 54
02/02 10:31:56 ET