Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The surprising Nebraska Cornhuskers begin their quest for their first-ever Big Ten Conference Tournament title, as they face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the quarterfinal round on Friday afternoon.
The winner moves on to meet either Illinois or Michigan in the semifinals on Saturday.
Ohio State, the fifth seed in the event, escaped its first-round bout with 12th-seeded Purdue on Thursday, 63-61. It was the second straight win for the Buckeyes, who took down Michigan State in the regular-season finale, and it was their fifth victory in the last seven games overall. The win also added to OSU's lead in terms of Big Ten Tournament victories, which currently stands at 28. The Buckeyes are seeking their sixth tourney crown, and two more wins will put them in their sixth consecutive championship game.
Nebraska had a season few outside of Lincoln could have predicted, as the team logged a 19-11 overall record and finished the Big Ten slate at 11-7. The Cornhuskers were rewarded with the No. 4 seed in this event, and they'll try to even their all-time record in the tourney at 2-2 with a win today.
The teams split a pair of meetings during the regular season, with each winning on its home floor. Ohio State leads the all-time series, 10-3.
Poor shooting nearly coast the Buckeyes in Thursday's first-round matchup with Purdue, as Thad Matta's club hit only 35.9 percent of its field goal attempts, which included a dreadful 1-of-14 showing from 3-point range. LaQuinton Ross posted a hefty double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds, but he went only 8-of-21 from the floor, while Aaron Craft finished with 16 points and five assists for an Ohio State club that performed well on the defense by yielding just a 41.4 percent success rate to the Boilermakers on their total shots, as they missed the mark on eight of their 10 long-range launches. It also helped that Purdue was guilty of 17 turnovers, further adding to the mystique of Ohio State's vaunted defensive approach.
Tim Miles was picked by his fellow mentors in the Big Ten as the league's Coach of the Year, and for good reason as he led Nebraska to a fourth-place finish. The Huskers have the conference's top scorer on the roster in Terran Petteway (18.0 ppg), and they are riding a wave of momentum as they have won three straight and eight of their last nine games overall. As a team, Nebraska generates only 67.0 ppg, but permits a mere 64.7 ppg. There is only one other double-digit scorer for Nebraska, as Shavon Shields nets 12.7 ppg while serving as the team's top rebounder with 5.8 ppg. Two others turn in at least 9.4 ppg, and the Huskers are in the black with regard to turnover margin (+1.4), but in the negative when turning the spotlight on their rebounding effort (-1.4).