Ohio State Basketball Is Firmly In The NCAA Tournament

The Ohio State men’s basketball team essentially secured its spot into the NCAA Tournament with their 81-56 victory over Nebraska on Thursday night.

Ohio State (20-8, 9-6 in the Big Ten) snapped its two-game losing streak with the victory as they had four players reach double figures in scoring. The Buckeyes shot 53.8 percent from the field, including 57.9 percent from beyond the arc (11-of-19). The game marked the 14th time this season that Ohio State has held their opponents to under 60 points.

The Buckeyes jumped out to early lead as they were hot from beyond the arc, knocking down seven-of-their-first 12 shots from long-range. Ohio State took a 42-24 lead into halftime. Freshman Jae’Sean Tate tallied a career-high 22 points, on 8-of-9 shooting, to lead the Buckeyes. He added seven rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Senior Sam Thompson, who was 3-of-3 from the three-point line, had 15 points while Shannon Scott added 13 points and six assists.

Freshman D’Angelo Russell struggled in front of New York Knicks general manager Phil Jackson. Russell was 3-of-9 from the floor and left the game with 12:44 in the game after cramping up and did not return. Russell finished with 11 points, six assists and three rebounds.

Russell is the key to the success for the Buckeyes and had Jackson raving about his skills.

“He’s a great-looking kid,” Jackson said according to the Cleveland.com. “Great prospect.”

The six-foot, five-inchguard leads Ohio State in scoring with 18.9 points a game and has scored in double figures in 27 games this season, including 26 in a row. Russell is shooting 46.0 percent and an incredible 42.7 percent from the three-point line. He also leads the squad with 5.7 rebounds and is second on the team with 5.4 assists a game.

Ohio State is more than Russell as Marc Loving and Thompson are also averaging double-figures. Loving is second on the team in scoring at 10.7 points a game and is shooting 51.7 percent from beyond the arc. He has totaled just 10 points, on 3-of-11 shooting, since returning from a team-issued suspension three games ago. Thompson is averaging 10.4 points a contest.

“We definitely need Marc to score,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said about Loving. “I thought Marc played a lot better than he did last Sunday, especially on the defensive end. No doubt getting him back and hopefully hitting his stride will make us a better basketball team.”

Ohio State has a RPI of 39 and is projected as a No. 8 seed by CBSsports.com, Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com and USA Today.com. The Buckeyes could improve their position depending how they finish out the Big Ten schedule if they can win a game or two in the conference tournament. They host Purdue on March 1, travel to Penn State on March 5, and then conclude the regular season at home against No. 5 Wisconsin on March 8.

[Image courtesy of Jamie Sabau/Getty Images]