LINCOLN — Considering it was a basketball game, somebody had to win.
So when Ohio State finally played somewhat less ugly than Nebraska late Saturday evening, particularly in overtime, the Buckeyes escaped a sold-out Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 6562 victory.
The Huskers (14-14, 6-9) likely kicked themselves all the way back to their practice facility for blowing a chance at a meaningful late-season victory after holding OSU (18-10, 10-5) to 38.9 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
"This was a game of missed opportunities ... a painful loss," a disheveled NU coach Tim Miles said. "If you don't feel this at the depth of your soul as a player or coach, you're not a competitor." The key word in that previous paragraph is "missed," because the Huskers shot baskets like they had never seen their own building.
The field-goal tally of 27.1 percent (19 of 70) was the worst in 14 years, since a 24.6 percent mark in a 2002 loss to Oklahoma. NU was off-target from everywhere, making 9 of 35 3-pointers and 10 of 35 2-pointers.
To make it complete, NU also clanked 8 of its first 14 free throws.
Nebraska had the ball on the final possession of regulation with a chance to win and the final possession of overtime with a chance to tie. Neither was a success.
On the first, freshman point guard Glynn Watson brought the ball up the floor against pressure after Ohio State freshman guard JaQuan Lyle swished two free throws to tie the game at 56 with nine seconds left. Watson eventually was triple-teamed about 30 feet from the basket and lost the ball.
In overtime, the 6-foot-5, 201-pound Lyle bulled his way to the basket to score with 3:57, 1:14 and 31 seconds left. With OSU up 65-62, Nebraska had the final 15 seconds to tie, but junior Andrew White misfired on a 3. Watson scrambled for the rebound and flung a desperation 3-pointer with a few seconds left that veered wide.
For White, the final miss was a symbolic end to a difficult night.
One week after scoring a career-high 35 points in a victory over Penn State, the 6-7 wing hit only 3 of 17 shots (17.6 percent) while scoring 14 points.
His accuracy rate entering the game was 51.3 percent, good for 15th in the Big Ten.
"This is the toughest loss we've had," White said. "We had the game. I feel if I had played 25 percent of what I'm capable of, we probably come out with it.
"In the locker room, Coach held everybody accountable for this play and that play. But I don't look at it that way. I felt I should have impacted this game on both ends of the floor and made sure we won it, especially because it was a game right there in our hands."
As much as White struggled, he nearly led Nebraska to victory.
He scored Nebraska's final seven points in regulation, including a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left that put NU up for the first time in nearly 17 minutes. White added two free throws on the first possession of overtime, but missed his final three shots.
As much as Nebraska struggled offensively, Ohio State deserves some defensive credit.
The long-limbed Buckeyes are third in the Big Ten in field-goal defense and tied for second in blocked shots. Miles said he knew OSU would hound White, especially with Shavon Shields (concussion) missing a fourth straight game.
"They're quick to the ball and long and athletic," Miles said. "They switched stuff out to him, which we knew could happen.
"I don't know if you would look at anybody's line and they would tell you that they're not shouldering some blame, too."
Freshman forward Jack McVeigh led Nebraska with 16 points. His 5-for-11 shooting made him the only Husker regular close to 50 percent. Besides White's 3 of 17, Watson was 4 of 14, guard Tai Webster 3 of 11 and forward Michael Jacobson 1 of 8.
For Ohio State, all of Lyle's game-high 19 points came after halftime — a fair bounce-back after opening the game with an airball that the crowd frequently reminded him of.
"He was too quick on things offensively the first half," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "He wasn't waiting for the action to happen.
"But I thought his poise, composure and timing was much better later. His ability to finish through contact and make his free throws was tremendous for us."