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Huskers face uphill climb in clash with third-ranked Buckeyes

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Updated: 1/04 11:08 am

Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes continue their quest for perfection, as they put their undefeated record on the line against the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers in a Big Ten Conference bout at Value City Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Nebraska is three games over .500 on the season (8-5), but the team has lost its last two games, the most recent of which being its Big Ten opener at Iowa on New Year's Eve, 67-57. The Cornhuskers are 0-3 in true road games, and just 1-5 outside of Lincoln all told when you factor in their record in three neutral-site affairs.

Ohio State is a perfect 14-0, although the team's detractors will be quick to point out the fact that the Buckeyes haven't faced many tough teams. Really, their only wins of note have come against Maryland, Notre Dame and most recently, Purdue in the league lid lifter on New Year's Eve (78-69). OSU is 11-0 at home this season, and this game will serve as a tune-up for Tuesday's trip to No. 5 Michigan State. The Buckeyes are 9-0 in Big Ten home openers under head coach Thad Matta.

Ohio State owns a 9-2 series advantage over Nebraska, and the Buckeyes have won the last eight meetings.

Trailing by 20 points at one point in their recent clash with Iowa, the Cornhuskers battled back to make a game of it, but still came out on the short end of a 10-point decision. Terran Petteway (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Walter Pitchford (13 points, 12 rebounds) both logged double-doubles, but those efforts went for naught as Nebraska shot a dismal 29.9 percent from the floor, which included a 5-of-18 showing from 3-point range. Conversely, the Hawkeyes made good on 45.8 percent of their total shots, despite going just 1- of-6 from beyond the arc. Iowa enjoyed a 22-12 edge in points from the foul line, while also staking claim to a 38-22 margin in the paint.

Petteway is clearly the top performer on the team, as he averages 17.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while Shavon Shields is next with 12.5 ppg to go with his 5.4 rpg. The Huskers are scoring 71.0 ppg while yielding 66.6 ppg, and the team shoots as well as it allows (.427), although it is more efficient from long range (.352 to .305). The squad is in the red with regard to rebounding margin (-1.8), but sits squarely in the black in turnovers (+3.5).

LaQuinton Ross scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to record his third consecutive double-double, as Ohio State won its 14th straight game to open the season at Purdue earlier in the week. Shannon Scott tallied a career-high 18 points, Lenzelle Smith, Jr. added 14, and Aaron Craft dished out 10 assists, came up with eight boards and chipped in with seven points for the Buckeyes, who drained 44.6 percent of their field goal attempts, even in the face of a woeful 4-of-22 showing from beyond the arc. OSU had assists on 21 of its 29 field goals, while only committing six turnovers.

Ross and Smith, Jr. are the only players presently averaging double digits in the scoring column for coach Matta's club, turning in 13.8 and 13.4 ppg, respectively. There are five others netting between 6.4 and 9.6 ppg, demonstrating an unselfish, balanced attack that has certainly served the team well to this point. The Buckeyes are outscoring their opponents by 20 ppg on average, with their defensive yield (55.1 ppg, .369 FG percentage, .241 3- point FG percentage) ranking them among the very best in the nation.

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