Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Buckeyes’ defense holds up in crunch time
Nebraska had its chances in a sloppy game at No. 13 Ohio State, yet could not close to allow the Buckeyes to hold on for a 63-59 win.
James Palmer Jr. exploded for 34 points, including five 3-pointers, and kept Nebraska close into crunch time. The Huskers got the ball back inside the final two minutes, and down just four. Ohio State answered by forcing a shot clock violation, though, and Nebraska’s hopes of pulling a second-straight upset fell short in Columbus.
For once it was Nebraska who benefited from a late free throw miss when Kaleb Wesson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the ball back to NU down 60-56 with 2:06 left. The Huskers were unable to get a good look early on the next possession, and wound up taking a timeout with nine seconds to shoot.
Despite taking the timeout to talk things over, Nebraska was unable to get a shot off before the shot clock expired and gave the ball back to the Buckeyes after running the clock down to 1:35.
Jae’Sean Tate scored for Ohio State on the next possession to push the lead to six, and Nebraska missed two chances at 3-pointers to all but put the game out of reach when Wesson was fouled again with 40 seconds to play. He made both, and Palmer added a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go for the final points of the game.
Palmer’s total was a career high, and came on the same day the junior earned co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors. On top of his five 3-pointers, Palmer connected on 6 of 7 shots from inside the arc, and went 7-for-8 from the free throw stripe.
In the first half, Palmer hit his only 3-pointer of the period to put NU up 12-5 early. A layup with a minute left put the Huskers up 22-21 and gave Palmer 11 points in the half. Ohio State answered with a ‘3’ to take the lead after a slow-paced 20 minutes to open the game. The Huskers shot just 29 percent from the field overall, and made 2 of 15 attempts from 3-point range in the half.
Things improved after half, but as the Huskers hit 50 percent of their shots, Ohio State upped its efforts from 36 percent in the first half to 51.9 after the break. Palmer’s four ‘3’s provided a spark for Nebraska, and Anton Gill scored both of his baskets in the second half. Evan Taylor added his 4 points in the second half, too, but it still wasn’t enough.
That means that Jordy Tshimanga (4 points) and Isaiah Roby (2) scored only in the first half, while Gill, Taylor and Glynn Watson Jr. (2 points) did not score until the second half. Isaac Copeland made a 3-pointer in the second half to make him the only player besides Palmer to score in both periods.
Ohio State put four of its starters in double figures, including 20 points from Keita Bates-Diop, and needed hit two 3-pointers to survive the upset threat from Nebraska. The Buckeyes dominated the paint with 38 points, and committed just six turnovers despite the choppy offensive flow.
Now Nebraska has to face a quick turnaround, with the team traveling straight from Columbus to New Jersey for Wednesday’s game against Rutgers. With tip-off set for 6 p.m. central, that means NU will play two games in less than 48 hours as Big Ten play heats up.