Lincoln, Neb. — Ohio State gutted one out against Nebraska.
The Buckeyes’ shots weren’t falling, and they let a double-digit lead evaporate in the second half. A loss to the struggling Cornhuskers would have been devastating to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
JaQuan Lyle wouldn’t let that happen, scoring all 19 of his points after halftime, including six in overtime to carry Ohio State to a 65-62 victory Saturday night.
“A month ago we probably would have shut down and they would have won the game in regulation,” Lyle said. “We didn’t do that today. We kept fighting, got to overtime and pulled the game out for a big win.”
Lyle’s layup broke a 62-62 tie with 31 seconds left, and the Huskers missed on three more chances before Ohio State secured its fourth win in a row and sixth in eight games.
Ohio State (18-10, 10-5 Big Ten) closes the regular season with three games against Top 25 opponents — home and away against Michigan State and at home against Iowa. There’s still more work to do for the Buckeyes to become a viable candidate for the NCAA Tournament, but losing to the conference’s ninth-place team would have stained their resume.
“This is a heck of a place to play and Nebraska had a lot on the line, (too),” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “From that perspective, we’re very excited about the win even though we might not have played as well as we could. But they had a lot to do with that.”
Keita Bates-Diop had 16 points and Jae’Sean Tate and Marc Loving added 15 apiece for Ohio State, with Tate also grabbing 12 rebounds. The Buckeyes shot 38.9 percent and were just 3 of 14 on 3-pointers.
“The rim was messing with us today,” Lyle said.
Jack McVeigh led the Huskers (14-14, 6-9) with 16 points, Andrew White III had 14 and Glynn Watson Jr. added 10. Nebraska shot a season-low 27.1 percent from the field and went 9 of 35 from 3-point range.
White, just 3 for 17 for the game, made a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left in regulation to complete the Huskers’ comeback from 11 points down and put them up 56-54.
Lyle’s two free throws with nine seconds left tied it at 56, and the game went to overtime after Mickey Mitchell stole the ball from Watson at midcourt.
Both teams slogged through the first half, combining for four scores on the first 24 possessions. The Buckeyes scored just two points through the opening 9 ½ minutes. But the Huskers were just as bad and could never capitalize on Ohio State’s horrid start.
“This is a painful loss,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “If you don’t feel this at the depth of your soul as a player or coach, you’re not a competitor. When we watch it on tape, we’re going to see our errors and we’re going to make sure we get better from this.”