After a promising start that included 11 wins in its first 12 games, Ohio State has hit a rough patch. The Buckeyes have lost four straight games, including three in a row in Big Ten play.
Ohio State tumbled from No. 2 in the Associated Press poll in late December to No. 21 on Monday.
The Buckeyes (11-5, 1-4 Big Ten) enter Tuesday’s home game against Nebraska aiming to build some momentum as they have a four-game stretch — Nebraska, Penn State, Minnesota and Northwestern — against unranked teams.
The Buckeyes’ descent includes consecutive double-digit road losses against Maryland and Indiana, with the biggest problem being a lack of scoring.
The Buckeyes haven’t toped 60 points in three weeks, dating to a 71-65 win over Kentucky on Dec. 21 in Las Vegas. In the loss to Indiana, the Buckeyes scored just 16 points in the paint and shot 21.4 percent, including 2-for-14 on 3-pointers, in the second half. The Buckeyes have shot under 33 percent in three of their four losses in this skid.
“I think it’s a work in progress right now,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after the Indiana loss. “We definitely have some offensive issues that we’ve got to work out. It was a tough second half for us. We’ve got to find a way to figure some things out quickly.”
Holtmann sat sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. for the final 17:26 of the Indiana loss for what he termed as a “coach’s decision.” Washington is the team’s second-leading scorer (10.7 points per game) and top 3-pointer shooter (29 of 66, 43.9 percent), so his availability for Tuesday’s game is something to watch.
In some good news, starting forward Kyle Young returned to the lineup in the Indiana loss after missing two games due to an appendectomy. He only scored one point and pulled down three rebounds in 22 minutes; Holtmann said the junior was rusty.
The Cornhuskers (7-9, 2-3) dropped a 62-57 decision at Northwestern on Saturday. The Cornhuskers were coming off an impressive 76-70 victory against Iowa but couldn’t recover from a slow start that included just 27 points in the first half.
First-year Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg has relied on underclassmen to make big contributions.
Cam Mack had a big effort in the loss, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The sophomore guard has been one of the best newcomers in the league after spending last season playing at Salt Lake Community College. The 6-foot-2 Mack is averaging 12.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds and ranks third in the conference with a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Freshman Kevin Cross is averaging 10 points and five rebounds in Nebraska’s last two games, while freshman Yvan Ouedraogo is averaging a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game. Senior Haanif Cheatham is a newcomer who leads the team with 13.1 points per game. He previously spent two-plus seasons at Marquette and last season at Florida Gulf Coast.
The Buckeyes have history on their side, winning 12 of 14 meetings since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
–Field Level Media