COLUMBUS: After wrapping up its nonconference schedule Dec. 27 with a season-high, 40-point blowout of Louisiana-Monroe, No. 3 Ohio State (15-0) got off to a 2-0 start in the Big Ten for only the second time in six years.
The victory at Purdue was the Buckeyes’ fourth conference road game in five years on New Year’s Eve and the third in their past four games at Mackey Arena. They returned home and smacked Nebraska by 30 points or more for the third time in six games since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten two years ago.
The week ahead
The Buckeyes have played one ranked team (Marquette) in 15 games. They will play two this week in No. 20 Iowa, even though the Hawkeyes lost 75-71 at No. 4 Wisconsin on Sunday night. Michigan State (13-1) is No. 5 and has won six consecutive games since a loss at home to North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Iowa (11-3) won at home by 10 points over Nebraska four days before Ohio State defeated the Huskers by 31.
How good are they?
The most definitive answer yet will come tonight. Much has been made of the strength, or lack thereof, of Ohio State’s nonconference schedule. But as of Sunday, the Buckeyes had played six teams in the top 100 of the Rating Percentage Index; Michigan State had played five and defeated four, two on the road. Ohio State stood seventh and Michigan State 11th in the RPI. The Spartans are 16-2 in Big Ten home games the past two seasons, with one of the losses inflicted by Ohio State in the 2011-12 season finale.
The first two games of the conference season changed nothing with the Buckeyes’ defense, which has yet to allow 70 points in a game and remains No. 1 in Division I in fewest points allowed per possession (.853) and three-point percentage (.243). Its percentage of assists allowed per field goal (.378) also ranks among the top three nationally.
LaQuinton Ross’ career highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds at Purdue gave him three consecutive double-doubles, a streak that ended when he played only 19 minutes against Nebraska. Shannon Scott rediscovered his shooting touch from the perimeter the past two games (31 points, four 3-pointers), which helped make up for Lenzelle Smith Jr. losing his (0 for 8 from beyond the arc). Aaron Craft had 14 assists, seven steals and no turnovers in the two games. The bench provided a boost against Nebraska with 38 points, including 15 by Amedeo Della Valle and a career-high 13 by freshman Marc Loving. Della Valle has made 9 of 10 three-point tries in the past three games.
Purdue was the Buckeyes’ third game away from Value City Arena — at Marquette and against Notre Dame in New York were the others — and in all three they made less than 20 percent of their 3-point attempts (a combined 10-of-58, 17 percent). The Buckeyes also could have a more difficult time rebounding their misses, not to mention those of their opponents, now that they are in the Big Ten. Purdue and Nebraska had 25 offensive rebounds between them. Amir Williams has six rebounds the past three games after getting 27 in the previous three games.
Outside the lines
Guard D’Angelo Russell, the highest-rated member of Ohio State’s 2014 highly rated recruiting class, returned to the court for Montverde (Fla.) Academy after rehabilitating from knee surgery on a torn meniscus. He scored 17 points in his first game on Dec. 27 and was named to the all-tournament team in the Wild Wing Cafe Hoop Classic in Charlotte, N.C. On Saturday night, he scored 13 points off the bench to lead Montverde, the nation’s top-ranked high-school team, to a 74-46 victory over Wheeler, Ga.
“When we let them go 9-for-19 from 3, you’ve got a problem on your hands with Ohio State.” — Nebraska coach Tim Miles