COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In a battle between the Big Ten's first and worst from a year ago, neither team looked much different.
Ohio State looked every bit like the three-time defending conference champion that it is, defeating Nebraska by a score of 70-44 on Wednesday night. Albeit against a team that finished last in the league with a 4-14 record a season ago, the win gave the Buckeyes their first win against a BCS conference opponent this season, after their opener with Marquette was canceled and they suffered losses to Duke and Kansas in their out-of-conference schedule.
Deshaun Thomas led OSU in scoring with 22 points- 18 of which came in the first half. The junior forward outscored the Cornhuskers on his own in the first half as the Buckeyes took a 36-17 lead into halftime.
"I was really happy with Deshaun because they threw a little bit something different at him and not only he, but the other guys read it well," OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game. "We seemed to have a little bit more of an understanding of what we needed to do every time down the floor."
But while Thomas' offensive outpour for the difference for the Buckeyes in the first half, Matta felt that the story of the game was his team's defense, which held Nebraska to 30.4 percent shooting on Wednesday night.
"The defense was very effective. Guys were communicating," Matta said. "They ran a lot of different things in the first half. They picked up on them and challenged shots, which was the game for us."
Ohio State looked to put the game out of reach early in the second half, opening the period on a 10-2 run. Nebraska answered with a 7-2 run of its own to shrink the Buckeyes' lead to 12, but saw any chances of a potential upset slide when OSU stretched its lead out to as many as 31 points in the second half.
Guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 17 points for the Buckeyes on a career-high five made 3-pointers. In his second start at center for OSU, Amir Williams put together perhaps the best game of his college career, scoring eight points, pulling down eight rebounds, and blocking four shots for the Buckeyes.
"Coach just talked about being a force around the basket and challenging every shot," Williams said. "Four blocks today and I think altered maybe four more."
Ohio State's win over the Huskers was just its first step in an attempt to win a fourth-consecutive regular season conference title. The road to another league crown won't get any easier, especially in a Big Ten that features six teams ranked inside the country's top 25.
But with a date at No. 11 Illinois looming on Saturday, OSU guard Aaron Craft likes where his team stands heading into the remainder of its conference schedule.
"Every team is great, every team has a chance to win the game," Craft said. "That's the biggest thing that you have to get across to the guys that don't play as much or haven't in the past years. Every team can go off and you can be knocked off. You have to have the right mindset, attitude every game."