Buckeyes battle Cornhuskers in Big Ten brawl

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Updated: 1/20 10:23 am

Lincoln, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - The suddenly struggling Ohio State Buckeyes will try to put an end to their three-game slide on Monday night, as they pay a visit to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Big Ten Conference action at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Ohio State began the season as one of the nation's best squads with 15 consecutive wins, but has since fallen fast with consecutive losses against Michigan State (72-68), Iowa (84-74) and most recently at Minnesota on Thursday night (63-53) for its first three-game losing streak since the 2008-09 season. The Buckeyes are now 2-3 in league play and 2-2 on the road.

Nebraska has had its share of problems in recent weeks, as it has dropped four in a row to start conference action and five straight overall to slip to .500 overall (8-8) for the first time all season. The Cornhuskers have had an eight-day layoff since their last game at Purdue on Jan. 12, which they lost, 70-64.

The Cornhuskers have lost six in a row to Ohio State since joining the Big Ten in the 2011-12 season, giving the Buckeyes a 10-2 advantage in the all-time series.

The Buckeyes were locked up in a tight battle with Minnesota for most of their latest game, but after taking a 39-38 lead with under 14 minutes to play, they lost control of the contest after the Golden Gophers ripped off a 23-8 run down the stretch. They shot a lackluster 35.3 percent from the field in the setback, and to make matters worse they were outrebounded by a convincing 39-24 margin. LaQuinton Ross led the way with 22 points, while Sam Thompson made his mark off the bench with 12 points.

Ohio State's recent struggles haven't been able to tarnish its outstanding season statistics, as it shoots 46.2 percent from the field for 73.9 ppg, while also ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 57.9 ppg. It is also aided by positive margins in the rebounding (+1.4) and turnover (+3.7) battles. Ross has emerged as the top offensive weapon with 14.1 ppg to go with 5.8 rpg, while Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Amir Williams (9.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) have also been active on the glass. Aaron Craft (9.0 ppg, 5.0 apg) is one of the nation's best perimeter defenders, recording 2.4 steals per contest.

The Cornhuskers hung tough at Purdue in their most recent tilt, as they never trailed by double digits, but ultimately fell by a six-point margin by getting outshot from the floor, 46.2 percent to 41.4 percent, while posting poor showings from beyond the arc (4-of-16) and the free-throw line (12-of-18). Terran Petteway tallied 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs netted 10 points apiece.

Nebraska has had difficulty putting up strong point totals all season long, as the team shoots under 43 percent from the floor en route to 69.4 ppg, which just barely supports its solid scoring defense (68.2 ppg). It's also hindered by a -1.4 rebounding margin, although a +2.4 takeaway margin helps make up some of that ground. Petteway is one of the Big Ten's most effective swingmen, boasting 17.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 1.0 spg while going 23-of-63 from 3-point range (.365) and 72-of-84 at the free-throw line (.857). Shavon Shields (10.9 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, although Biggs (9.9 ppg), Walter Pitchford (8.4 ppg), Gallegos (8.4 ppg) and Leslee Smith (7.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) bring quality depth to the squad.

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