Nebraska men’s basketball wraps up a two-game home stand Tuesday night with a 6 p.m. tip at Pinnacle Bank Arena versus Ohio State.
The game will be streamed on Peacock with Jac Collinsworth and Stephen Bardo on the call.
Saturday’s game will be a chance for the Huskers to improve on their 14-5 record which is their best 19-game record since joining the Big Ten. The last time Nebraska had a better record after 19 games was in 1995-96 (15-4). A win Tuesday against Ohio State would be the best 20-game start since the 1990-91 (18-2).
Gary Game-Time Decision
Juwan Gary missed Saturday’s win over Northwestern with a calf strain suffered in the loss to Rutgers last week.
Monday, Coach Fred Hoiberg provided an update on the status of Gary’s availability.
“He’s doing significantly better than where he was even the last couple of days,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously when it happened at Rutgers when he was in a boot and on crutches and putting no weight on it. We feel good about where he is but we want to be smart at the same time. It will be a game-time decision with Juwan tomorrow.”
Nebraska gave up 25 offensive rebounds in the loss at Rutgers. Ohio State provides a similar challenge. The Buckeyes average a six-rebound per game advantage this season and are one of the top teams in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.
“It is going to be important, they’ve got great size and physicality. When you look at their analytics they are top 30 in the country in offensive rebound percentage. I know they watched the film when we played Rutgers. We are going to have to do a better job early, similar to what we did against Northwestern, in controlling the glass. If we do that we are going to have a chance. If we give them a lot of extra shots then it’s going to be a hard game to win.”
Keeping the Buckeye guards off of the glass will be important. Guard Roddy Gayle Jr. is third on the team in rebounding (5.1 per game) and point guard Bruce Thornton is averaging 3.2 rebounds per game.
“We have to handle their physicality,” Hoiberg said. “It’s not just their bigs, they have guards that have tremendous size with Thornton, [Jamison] Battle and Gayle in their starting lineup. Those guys have great size and physicality. It’s going to be a five-man effort. We can’t just rely on our bigs, our guards have to do a much better job of getting in there and joining the fight and having better physicality to compete on the glass.”
Sophomore guard Bruce Thornton leads the Buckeyes in points (16.0), assists (4.4) and tied for the team lead in steals (1.8). Slowing down Thornton will be key if the Huskers are going to protect the home court.
“It all starts with him,” Hoiberg said. “He is so good at getting to his spot and using his body and creating space, either knocking down his mid-range shot or rising up from 3, good finisher at the rim as well. He is a really, really complete player. We are just going to do the best job we can of trying to keep him out of the paint and using physicality on him at all times. He’s a hell of a player.”
A hard hedge on a ball screen has proven effective in limiting Thornton’s ability to get to the rim and make plays for his teammates.
“It’s really limited his ability to get downhill,” Buckeye coach Chris Holtmann said. “ He’s such a strong guard, it’s a big reason why he’s getting hedged.”
The Buckeyes are 16-4 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011-12. However, Nebraska has won the last two matchups, a 63-60 win last season in Lincoln on Jan. 18, 2023 and a March 1, 2022 Husker 78-70 win in Columbus.
Nebraska has held 17 of its last 19 opponents under 50% shooting this season. Dating back to last season, the Huskers have held 22 of their last 26 opponents to under 50% shooting. Ohio State enters the game shooting 45% from the field while holding opponents to 41%.
The Huskers are 12-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena this season, the most home wins since the 2018-19 season.
Every game left on the schedule for Nebraska is important. Tuesday feels like one of the old bracket-buster games. Ohio State enters the game 46 in the NET rankings and Nebraska 56. In the RPI Nebraska enters Tuesday at 46 with Ohio State at 77. The analytics rankings like Ohio State a bit more than the NET and RPI rankings. KenPom has the Buckeyes at 44 with Nebraska sitting at 49.