Ohio State didn’t have it easy in its Big Ten opener, but the Buckeyes did enough to move into 2014 unbeaten.
Their next test may not be nearly as tough.
Third-ranked Ohio State looks to deal visiting Nebraska a third straight loss Saturday and remain perfect against the Cornhuskers since their move to the conference.
The Buckeyes (14-0, 1-0) got career highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds from LaQuinton Ross while Shannon Scott scored a career-best 18 in a 78-69 victory at Purdue on Tuesday. Ohio State’s veteran presence made the difference against the young Boilermakers, as the Buckeyes start seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. along with juniors Ross, Scott and Amir Williams – the lineup that’s taken the court to begin all 14 games.
"That’s something (experience) that we haven’t had the luxury of having very much at Ohio State," coach Thad Matta said. "I talk about it with our guys all the time, ‘You’ve been through this before.’ You know we never panicked and there’s no drill that you can do in practice to give them experience."
Ross and Scott combined for all of the points in a decisive 10-2 second-half run against the dangerous Boilermakers, who came in 8-0 at home. Craft finished with seven points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and four steals while committing no turnovers.
"Ten assists and zero turnovers speaks for itself," Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Craft. "He gets eight defensive rebounds, and he’s able to affect the game without scoring. There are not a lot of guys who can do that today, especially when they’re 6-foot-2."
That’s something (experience) that we haven’t had the luxury of having very much at Ohio State.
Craft has just nine turnovers in the past six games for the Buckeyes, who committed only six Tuesday and won despite being outrebounded 46-37.
Nebraska (8-5, 0-1) seems unlikely to pose as stiff a challenge. The Huskers shot a season-low 29.9 percent and their comeback attempt from a 20-point deficit fell short in a 67-57 loss to No. 22 Iowa on Tuesday.
They put up 19 more field-goal attempts than the Hawkeyes behind 17 offensive rebounds, but managed only 15 second-chance points.
"We just missed too many inside shots," coach Tim Miles said. "I don’t know why. It’s going to make us sick watching that tape."
Nebraska did put together a 20-5 run, capped by Terran Petteway’s 3-pointer with 1:45 left to cut the deficit to 60-55. Petteway had 20 points and 12 rebounds, but the Huskers dropped their 14th straight to a ranked opponent.
They’ve fared no better against Ohio State since beginning Big Ten play in the 2011-12 season, going 0-5 and getting outscored by an average of 70.8-47.0. Nebraska, which has dropped eight consecutive road games going back to last season, has lost eight straight in the series and has never won in Columbus in five tries.
The then-No. 10 Buckeyes took the latest meeting 71-50 in the conference tournament March 15, with Ross coming off the bench to go 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and score 11 points.
Ross has averaged 18.6 points in the past five games and 11.0 rebounds in the last three. Petteway has scored 23.0 per game over the past three and has reached the 20-point mark in four of his last five.
Ohio State has won 51 in a row at home against unranked Big Ten opponents.