Buckeyes hit rock bottom after six-point loss to Big Ten cellar dweller Nebraska

Things can only get better from here, because once you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross, left, is defended by Nebraska's Terran Petteway (5), in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross, left, is defended by Nebraska’s Terran Petteway (5), in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


Last night at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, No. 17 Ohio State endured one of the more embarrassing losses in recent memory of the basketball program as the Buckeyes dropped a 68-62 decision to Nebraska.

Yes, I just said Nebraska.

Last night’s loss marked Ohio State’s fourth-straight defeat, something that hasn’t happened since the 2007-2008 campaign when the Buckeyes lost four in a row during a tough stretch towards the end of the regular season en route to a National Invitational Tournament appearance.

Funny, it was just two weeks ago today that Ohio State was the No. 3 team in the country and a serious contender for not only a Big Ten title, but a national championship as well.

Then things took a drastic turn on the night of Jan. 7 in a 72-68 overtime loss to Michigan State in East Lansing, and everything has been getting progressively worse since.

The Cornhuskers entered last night’s game 0-4 in the Big Ten and were just 8-8 overall. And this was the same Nebraska team that Ohio State defeated 84-53 just 17 days ago in Columbus.

While I watched the game last night, all you have to do is look at the stat sheet to see what went wrong.

The Buckeyes’ top two scorers, junior forward LaQuinton Ross and senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., went a combined 8-of-24 from the field and scored a total of 21 points. Senior guard Aaron Craft was the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder with 12 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line and seven boards.

Sure, the biggest problem with the Ohio State basketball team is shooting. The Buckeyes were just 21-of-53 (39.6%) from the floor and 6-of-21 (28.6%) from three-point range against Nebraska. In the last four games, all losses, OSU is 88-of-218 (40.4%) from the floor and 23-of-76 (30.3%) from beyond the arc. For the season, the Buckeyes are hitting 45.9 percent of their shots from the field and 34.0 percent in threes.

Another dreadful stat is the Buckeyes are turning the ball over at an alarming rate. In the last four outings, Ohio State has 64 turnovers to just 49 assists.

That’s bad.

Also during the four-game losing streak the Buckeyes also have been outrebounded 140-124.

Look, it’s one thing when you outside shots are not falling, but the when you don’t have anyone to feed the ball in the low post, you’re in trouble. In the last four games, 6-foot-11 junior center Amir Williams is averaging 6.5 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 6.3 rebounds per game. Against Michigan State, Williams logged a season-high 35 minutes and scored eight points and 11 rebounds. But against Nebraska, Williams played just 16 minutes and took only two shots, made one, and scored four points with three rebounds as head coach Thad Matta opted to go with a smaller lineup due to Williams’ ineffectiveness.

“When something doesn’t go well, we’re not able to answer the call,” Matta said after the game. “We don’t have the mental toughness to make the next play. We’re clinging on the mistakes. We’ve got to play forward.”

There’s not a lot of time for Matta to right the ship. Ohio State hosts Illinois on Thursday night at Value City Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Here’s hoping that Matta has a few tricks up his sleeve.

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