Buckeyes, Sullinger crush Nebraska

Published 3:23 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

COLUMBUS (AP) — Coach Thad Matta applied some tough love after Ohio State’s most recent setback.

“He was not very nice,” forward Jared Sullinger said of Matta’s demeanor in practice.

The approach clearly worked.

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Sullinger had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 6 Ohio State shook off its painful loss at Indiana on Saturday with a 71-40 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday night.

“He wasn’t very polite,” the 6-foot-9 Sullinger said with a smile. “And that’s what we needed to put the fire back in us.”

The Buckeyes (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) had little difficulty in their first game since committing 17 turnovers and committing 22 fouls while falling 74-71 at No. 12 Indiana.

“Nobody likes to lose more than we do,” Matta said. “Like I told the guys, last year we learned a great lesson in the Kentucky game (a loss in the NCAA regional semifinals). But the season was over. Do we have the ability to learn a lesson here in the end of December and continue to move forward?”

Deshaun Thomas added 15 points and William Buford had 13 for the Buckeyes, who won their 35th consecutive home game.

Matta’s message got through.

“Better now than later, but it was a life lesson,” Sullinger said of the Indiana defeat and the residual fallout. “We gave up 17 layups against Indiana and they got whatever shot they wanted in the second half. As you can see, we turned up our defensive intensity in this game. We were just ready to play basketball.”

Toney McCray had 13 points and Bo Spencer 10 for Nebraska (8-6, 0-3), which was playing its first Big Ten road game.

“We knew we were coming in here to play an awfully good basketball team; that wasn’t a surprise,” coach Doc Sadler said. “They’re so long and physical. I don’t know if it was just us, but I thought it was their best defensive game they’ve played in terms of intensity — and they sustained it.”

The Cornhuskers were outrebounded 44-21 and had more turnovers (17) than field goals (16).

Spencer came in leading the Cornhuskers in scoring at 15.1 points a game (24.3 in three road games). But he, like the rest of his teammates, never came close to competing with the Buckeyes.

One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the 16,158 fans recognized new Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer sitting in a private suite. He received a lengthy ovation.

Nebraska was without two of its top scorers for the fifth consecutive game: 6-11 Jorge Brian Diaz is out with chronic foot soreness, and junior-college transfer Dylan Talley has been sidelined by a thigh injury.

The Cornhuskers have had the most difficult early-season schedule in the Big Ten, with home games against No. 11 Wisconsin (a 64-40 loss) and No. 16 Michigan State (a 68-55 defeat) before coming to No. 6 Ohio State. Those are also the top three teams in the preseason Big Ten poll.

Already up big at the break, Ohio State flexed its muscles in the opening minutes of the second half before Matta emptied his bench.

In the opening 2 minutes, Sullinger was fouled while releasing a 15-foot baseline jumper — and it went in. Thomas also was fouled while tossing up a spinning, over-the-head bank shot that also found the bottom of the net. The lead hovered around 30 for most of the half.

The Cornhuskers got out to a miserable start. From a 4-all tie, Ohio State ran off the next 13 points while Nebraska was continually turning the ball over. During one span, the Huskers had turnovers on four consecutive possessions.

“I don’t know that we were much of a test,” Sadler said. “The bottom line is it just wasn’t much of a contest for them tonight.”

Five players scored in the 13-0 run for the Buckeyes, with Buford hitting two baskets and Lenzelle Smith Jr. adding a 3-pointer.

McCray, who had nine points in the half, scored on a drive to cut the gap to 28-15 at the 5:09 mark, but Ohio State took off again with a 16-5 run to close the half. After an inbound play broke down in the closing seconds, the pass went to Sullinger, who poured in a 3 for a 44-20 halftime lead.

The Buckeyes won despite committing 19 turnovers — many unforced.

“We were pretty careless with the ball,” Buford said. “But defense was the key to winning the game. When we play great defense, we always end up with better offense and we end up executing better.”


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .