Cornhuskers start slowly in Big Ten opener
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)
In only his first season as Nebraska's coach, Tim Miles already knows what he's up against.
He took one look at the schedule - trips to three ranked opponents in the first 11 days of Big Ten play - and knew it could be trouble.
''Let's just say the Big Ten office didn't get a Christmas card from me,'' Miles joked.
In his first conference game on Wednesday night, his Cornhuskers had difficulty getting anything going on offense while Deshaun Thomas outscored Nebraska in the opening half of No. 8 Ohio State's 70-44 victory.
''We've just got to do a better job of being out there and hustling, knowing where your man is and not giving up so many points,'' said Ray Gallegos, who led the Cornhuskers (9-5, 0-1) with 14 points.
Brandon Ubel, who had six points, six rebounds and three assists, said the Huskers have to find some more energy.
''We just have to figure out how we're going to win those 50-50 battles,'' he said. ''That's just effort and attacking the ball at all times. We do that and we eliminate a lot of the things we struggled with tonight.''
Nebraska, coming off a 4-14 season in the Big Ten under the fired Doc Sadler, shot just 30 percent from the field with 14 turnovers.
How bad was it for the Cornhuskers? Only 8:27 remained when they finally exceeded the 31 points that their football counterparts scored in a 14-point loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl a day earlier.
Thomas outscored the Huskers 18-17 in the first half. By then, Ohio State was already ahead by 19 points. The Big Ten's leading scorer, Thomas finished with 22 before resting much of the second half, like most of the Buckeyes (11-2, 1-0). Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 17 points and Aaron Craft didn't score a point but created mayhem at both ends of the court with eight assists, no turnovers, six rebounds and three steals.
''I thought they did a good job with their interior defense,'' Miles said. ''We were 11 for 35 on 2-point shots, and that's just ineffective basketball. But they blocked six shots and it felt like they probably altered another four, five or six. We couldn't get (Dylan) Talley going inside the paint at all. We couldn't get Brandon inside the paint. That hurt us. Then you can just chase Ray Gallegos around a whole bunch and now you have limited options.''
The Cornhuskers live off their defense. They came in 6-1 when holding opponents to 60 or fewer points - and 3-3 when they did not. That's the way it is for a team that has trouble scoring. Nebraska, last in the Big Ten in scoring (61.7 points per game), never had the firepower to get back in the game.
Gallegos said the Buckeyes' defense made everything difficult.
''They were just pressuring everybody,'' he said. ''They were tuned in to what we were doing. They made it tough for us, inside and out.''
Thomas scored five points early and then scored seven of the last nine as the Buckeyes ended the half on a 9-0 run. Thomas had one more field goal than Nebraska did - in 15 fewer attempts in the opening half.
Then Ohio State scored the first five points of the second half to swell its run to 14-0 and its lead to 41-17. The lead never dropped below 20 again.
''I think us not hitting some shots affected our defense,'' Ubel said. ''They got to all the loose balls and then they would kick it out to (Thomas) and he's standing there wide open for a 3.''
To make matters even worse, starting post player Andre Almeida went down with what Miles termed a ''significant'' ankle injury.
After a home game on Sunday against Wisconsin, the Huskers hit the road again next week for games at No. 2 Michigan and No. 18 Michigan State.
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