Nebraska’s offense stalls mightily when it’s forced to do it in the halfcourt. Against Rutgers, Nebraska shot 31.7 percent and only scored six fastbreak points. This was proven again against Ohio State on Tuesday, where Nebraska shot only 1-9 from the 3-point line in the first half and scored only four fastbreak points.
At the same time, Ohio State shot the ball very efficiently in the first half. It shot 53.6 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the 3-point line, good for 1.5 points per shot attempt.
Generally speaking, when Nebraska is overwhelmed, it’s due to an imbalance in rebounding, as Nebraska is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. This, however, was not the case against Ohio State. In the first half, Nebraska out-rebounded Ohio State by one 19-18, particularly impressive considering how eight of Nebraska’s rebounds were offensive. This is partly due to Nebraska missing a considerable percentage of its shots, but impressive nevertheless considering the fact that Ohio State only grabbed two offensive rebounds.
Nebraska picked up its shooting in the 2nd half, hitting 8-13 of its 3-pointers for 61.5 percent from the 3-point line, which is one of its best quarters of the year in terms of volume and efficiency. This, however, was met with less-than-spirited defense where each Ohio State player had their way with Nebraska in the post. Redshirt junior guard C.J. Walker shot 6-6 from the field, including 2-2 from the 3-point line in the second half.
Nebraska attempted to guard the paint, which made some sense due to Ohio State’s relative lack of 3-point scoring in the second half, only shooting 5-12 from the 3-point line as opposed to its flurry from the first half. However, the team’s positioning from the basket left much to be desired, and Nebraska gave up a number of offensive rebounds, up to six after two in the first half. Ohio State also converted these chances well, scoring 10 second-chance points in the second half.
The Buckeyes also registered nine blocks on the Huskers, part of the reason why Nebraska was unable to draw more than five foul shots in the game. This statistic is particularly noteworthy, considering Nebraska averages 21 free throws per game. Free throws are an effective way to raise the floor of an offense due to their ease (though Nebraska remains one of the worst foul-shooting teams in the country at 350th), and Nebraska missing out on those 10 or 12 extra points may have cost the game for the Huskers.
Junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson, a revelation in recent weeks after becoming a starter, had another strong game, though his first half performance was poor. After shooting 0-2 in the first half, Thorbjarnarson came to life in the second half, shooting 5-7 from the 3-point line and ending with 15 points. Some of Thorbjarnarson’s value comes from his backdoor cuts for easy layups, but those high-percentage looks weren’t to be found today from the experienced guard.
Still, Thorbjarnarson is a key piece for the Huskers and has established his place due to his 3-point shooting renaissance. While some regression to the mean may be expected (Thorbjarnarson is shooting at 46 percent from the 3-point arc on three attempts per game), Thorbjarnarson has improved mightily since last season and even since the start of this season.
Junior guard Jervay Green had one of his better games in a Huskers uniform as well, shooting 4-6 from the field and 2-3 from the 3-point line. Green, after a suspension and a spell on the bench, has seemed to have found his spot on the Huskers as a solid rotation player who can make some shots throughout the game. This is slightly disappointing given his numbers in junior college, where he shot 54.7 percent from the field (down to 36.2 percent this year), but if he continues this run, he will be able to keep his place in the rotation.
Nebraska will be given three days to recalibrate after a tough road stretch, returning to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday to face Indiana. It played Indiana well last time, only losing narrowly in overtime a month ago. Some things will be different, and it may prove a good litmus test for the mental fortitude head coach Fred Hoiberg has fostered amongst his young team already.