Smith Lifts Buckeyes to Victory at Nebraska
By Brandon Castel
The Ohio State Buckeyes raised their road record in conference play to 3-2 on Saturday with a hard-fought 63-56 win at Nebraska.
Preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas struggled against a wave of Nebraska defenders, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. delivered when his team needed it most.
The junior out of Zion, Ill. made all six of his shots and scored a season-high 21 points to help the No. 11 Buckeyes (17-4, 7-2 Big Ten) fend off a second-half surge from the Cornhuskers (11-12, 2-8) at Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Thomas finished with 15 points and five rebounds in the win, but he was just 6 of 18 from the floor and 0 of 4 from behind the arc. Nebraska was determined to send waves of defenders at Ohio State’s top – and sometimes only – offensive weapon.
Coming off a 25-point game against Wisconsin, Thomas missed his first six shots on Saturday night. The Buckeyes actually fell behind Nebraska 16-14 in the early going. This is the same Nebraska team they beat by 34 in Lincoln last year.
The Buckeyes would go up 24-19 on a three-point play by Thomas and LaQuinton Ross capped off a 13-0 run with a deep three from 23 feet as the shot clock was expiring. Ohio State held a 30-19 lead after the Ross three and the Buckeyes led 32-23 at the half, despite getting just nine points from Thomas in the first 20 minutes.
Ohio State led 53-38 on a pair of free throws by Aaron Craft with 9:05 left in the second half, but Nebraska refused to go down without a fight this time. They hit the offensive glass and cut Ohio State’s lead to just five on a free throw from David Rivers with 2:40 remaining.
That capped a 15-5 run by the Cornhuskers to make it a 58-53 game, but Craft connected on two more free throws and the Buckeyes held off a valiant attempt from the hometeam to win the game 63-56.
Craft finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, while center Amir Williams added seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the Buckeyes.
Rivers led Nebraska with 13 points and six rebounds. Dylan Talley added 12 points and Ray Gallegos, coming off a 30-point game against Minnesota, scored 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting. He was just 3 of 12 from behind the arc.
The win keeps the Buckeyes a half-game back of No. 1-ranked Michigan and No. 3-ranked Indiana, who are playing in a critical primetime game on ESPN in Bloomington.
Ohio State will travel to Ann Arbor on Tuesday for a rematch with the Wolverines. They handed John Beilein and his team its only loss of the season heading into tonight’s game at Indiana.
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