NCAA Basketball

No. 23 Ohio State faces Nebraska, eyes position for postseason

Ohio State saw its chances of sharing a Big Ten title dashed with an upset loss at Maryland on Sunday, but the No. 23 Buckeyes still have plenty for which to play in the final week of the regular season.

The Buckeyes (18-8, 11-6 Big Ten) can secure a top-four seed and a bye to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament by winning three home games in six days, beginning Tuesday night against Nebraska (8-21, 2-16).

Ohio State is 12-1 in Columbus, including 8-1 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes will host Michigan State on Thursday and Michigan on Sunday.

It's on the road where the Buckeyes have been up and down. After winning 86-83 at then-No. 15 Illinois last Thursday, they were routed 75-60 at unranked Maryland on Sunday.

"We do have a quick turnaround," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said afterward. "We have to move forward with a full week ahead of us. We need to get better in a lot of areas. That's a challenge for us. We need to get better, and we obviously need to get a little bit of rest."

Mentally, the Buckeyes must regroup. One reason fifth-year forward Kyle Young used his extra season of eligibility was for a chance at the Buckeyes' first regular-season title since 2012.

"Horrible," Young said of the Maryland game. "There's not really another way to describe it. This one hurts. It definitely hurts."

That's in contrast to the mood in the Cornhuskers' camp after a stunning 93-70 win at Penn State on Sunday.

While the Nittany Lions aren't among the conference's elite teams, they had won three of their past four games.

Meanwhile, Nebraska's descent had been so alarming that athletic director Trev Alberts had to issue a vote of confidence for third-year coach Fred Hoiberg on Thursday, stating he would return for the 2022-23 season. Hoiberg has a 7-50 conference record.

The Cornhuskers responded against Penn State with five scorers in double figures, including 25 points by Bryce McGowens plus 15 points and five assists for Alonzo Verge Jr.

Nebraska shot 58.2 percent from the floor and made 13 of 20 attempts from 3-point range.

"We never got sped up tonight," Hoiberg said on his postgame radio show. "We just made the right play, and we hit singles. We didn't try to do too much, and I thought everybody that stepped on the floor made a big contribution to this win.

"None of us are happy with anything that has gone on from the win-loss record. To play the right way for 40 minutes and get rewarded for it, it's very gratifying."

The game versus the Buckeyes was scheduled for Jan. 22 but was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Nebraska program.

Ohio State defeated the Cornhuskers 87-79 in overtime in Lincoln, Neb., on Jan. 2 behind a career-high 35 points by Malaki Branham.

The Buckeyes might be shorthanded Tuesday. Center Zed Key was seen with his right ankle in a walking boot after the Maryland game. He was involved in a collision with a Terrapins player with seven minutes left.

"Hopefully, we'll get him back (this week), but obviously we've got the postseason to think about as well," Holtmann said.

-- Field Level Media

Updated February 28, 2022

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