COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After Nebraska's third straight loss, coach Tim Miles was asked what his team needed to do to turn things around.
"I'm not sure I can say that out loud without getting in trouble," he said, a smile creasing his lips.
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The maturation of the young Cornhuskers (8-6, 0-2 Big Ten) continued on Saturday with a lopsided 84-53 defeat at No. 3 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (15-0, 2-0) struggled for much of the first half before taking control with a late 7-0 run to build a 10-point halftime lead. Then they got off to a quick start in the second half behind LaQuinton Ross' two 3-pointers.
The Huskers didn't hit a basket over the final 8 minutes.
"We didn't do a very good job defensively and we put them on the line," said Leslee Smith, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. "We didn't get out on their shooters and they hit a lot of 3s. Those were the two things that killed us. Other than that, we played pretty well."
Ohio State outscored Nebraska by 14 points at the free throw line and hit 9 of 19 3-pointers to the Cornhuskers' 4 of 15.
On top of that, the Buckeyes' reserves outscored Nebraska's 38-12.
"We're a team that will play pretty well for a while and then we'll get a little hysterical," said Miles, who is 23-24 in his two seasons in Lincoln. "I said at the beginning of the year this wasn't going to be a roller-coaster year, it was going to be an EKG-type of season. I think you saw that tonight. There were times we were really good and it looked like we were right there and we could compete. We have to understand how to sustain that."
Reserves Amedeo Della Valle had 15 points and Marc Loving scored a career-high 13 for Ohio State. Ross added 11 points, Shannon Scott had 13 and Amir Williams chipped in with 10 points for the Buckeyes, who shot 54 percent from the field (27 of 50).
The game swung late in the half.
Shavon Shields slashed across the lane and tossed up a shot that cut Ohio State's lead to 33-30 with 2:29 remaining. But the Buckeyes' defense turned up the pressure.
Aaron Craft got things going with a 3 from the right wing at the 1:17 mark -- his first made 3-pointer in four games -- before Scott's deflection and steal led to Della Valle tipping in Scott's missed layup.
Ohio State blocked Nebraska's final two shots of the half -- both by David Rivers -- with Trey McDonald batting away the first and Sam Thompson the second. Thompson was then fouled with 2.7 seconds left and hit both free throws to make it 40-30.
"I think it was huge going into the half knowing we had a 10-point lead, especially playing the last 4 minutes with that energy compared to the first 4 or 5 minutes (of the game) when we didn't have that energy," Della Valle said. "And that led to a great start of the second half."
The Buckeyes, leading the Big Ten in scoring defense at 55.1 points a game, limited the Cornhuskers to 38 percent shooting from the field (21 of 56) while forcing 17 turnovers.
Terran Petteway scored 15 points for the Cornhuskers, who have lost 20 consecutive road games to ranked teams since beating No. 22 Texas A&M on Feb. 23, 2008.
Nebraska -- which started three sophomores and a freshman -- knows what it needs to do.
"We just need to play better defense and to be a better second-half team," Smith said. "We've been struggling in the second half. We need to regroup and start the second half with a lot of confidence."
Miles will continue to let his team grow and hope that the light comes on. The Cornhuskers rallied in a 67-57 loss at No. 22 Iowa in the Big Ten opener on Tuesday. Not against Ohio State, however.
"The way we ended the game you saw a disappointed team and you just can't let yourself go that way," he said. "We hung around that 16- or 18-point (deficit) and it got to 20 and then we get it down and we just stopped. We have to have more resolve and resiliency than that."
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