Guard Amedeo Delle Valle provided some needed energy off the bench to help an Ohio State team that was letting one of the Big Ten Conference's cellar-dwellers hang around longer than expected.
Delle Valle scored 15 points off the bench to lead five Buckeyes in double figures, and No. 2 Ohio State overwhelmed Nebraska in the second half for an 84-53 victory in the Buckeyes' Big Ten Conference home opener on Saturday at Value City Arena.
"Usually we talk on the bench and make sure we bring energy to the team," said Delle Valle, who played 22 minutes. "When you bring energy, you are already doing something big. Then shots come and you play good defense."
Delle Valle, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, entered the game averaging 4.9 points. He was 5 for 5 from the field, including 3 for 3 on 3-pointers, as Ohio State (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) pulled away after a close first half.
"It excites me," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of Delle Valle's play. "I know how hard he works and how badly he wants the team to do well. He wants to contribute and be a part of what we are doing. He's diligent in his work and he is doing exactly what we need him to do for us."
Ohio State, ahead by 10 points at halftime, used a 12-0 run early in the second half for sufficient breathing room.
Guard Aaron Craft hit a jumper, forward LaQuinton Ross made back-to-back 3-pointers, guard Lenzelle Smith scored inside and guard Shannon Scott made two free throws with 14:23 remaining for a 56-36 lead.
Nebraska, which trailed by 20 points midway through the second half of its Big Ten Conference opener Tuesday at Iowa and pulled within five, could not get any closer than 14 points this time.
Forward Marc Loving scored a career-high 13 points and Scott scored 13 for Ohio State, which had nine players play at least 15 minutes apiece.
"I'm comfortable with my rotation," Matta said. "Every game poses a different scenario in terms of what we might need. It's great to see when guys come in and can contribute. Everyone looks at the stats, how many points, rebounds, etc. but there a lot of other intangible things that those guys did today that were good."
Ohio State held Nebraska without a field goal for the final 8:05 of the game. The Huskers' only points in that stretch came on two free throws by guard Deverell Biggs, as Ohio State ended the game with its biggest margin of 31 points.
"Some of that was just sheer disappointment, just a young team disappointed in what was going on," said Nebraska coach Tim Miles, whose team was picked to finish last in the Big Ten. "But you can't let yourself get to that point. You have to keep competing and keep doing the things that you allow you to get there."
Forward Terran Petteway scored 15 points and forward Leslee Smith scored 11 for Nebraska (8-6, 0-2 Big Ten).
The Huskers trailed just 33-30 with 1:23 remaining in the first half, but Miles at that point sat Petteway and guard Shavon Shields, two starters with two fouls apiece, and replaced them with a true freshman guard, Nate Hawkins, and a junior forward, David Rivers, who had not played in three games.
"You think, 'OK, we can bide some time,' " Miles said, "and we just looked like a train wreck with all those young guys."
Ohio State clamped down on defense to close the first half on a 7-0 run and open their biggest lead of the first half, 40-30, at halftime.
A steal by Scott and blocked shots by center Trey McDonald and forward Sam Thompson led to a 3-pointer by Craft, a tip-in by Delle Valle and two free throws from Thompson.
The Huskers led for a five-minute stretch of the first half until the 10:25 mark, when Thompson hit a floater in the lane for a 14-14 tie.
The Buckeyes seemed on the verge of opening up the game, using an 8-0 run for a 27-19 lead. Ross had a 3-pointer and Craft had a steal and layup to highlight that run.
But freshman guard Tai Webster hit a 3-pointer in the corner and Petteway drew a shooting foul and made two free throws to pull Nebraska within 27-24.
The Huskers kept close on Shields' short jumper in the lane to stay within 33-30 with 2:28 remaining. Nebraska forced a defensive stop and had a chance to get close, but Shields missed a jumper, and Ohio State then responded with its run to close the first half.
Notes: With 15 wins to start the season, Ohio State has won 10 or more consecutive games in 13 seasons all-time. This also marks the fifth year in which an Ohio State team has won 10 or more games to start the season. ... Nebraska F Walter Pitchford played 14 minutes of turnover-free ball, extending his NCAA Division I-leading streak this season to 310 minutes played with no turnovers. ... Ohio State, ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring defense, held Nebraska to a season-low 53 points, the third straight game the Huskers have posted a season-low scoring total. ... The Huskers are 0-6 against Ohio State since joining the Big Ten, and have lost those games by an average of 24.6 points.