Nebraska visits Ohio State with NCAA Tournament in view

Streaking Nebraska can see its first NCAA Tournament in 10 years on the horizon, but the Cornhuskers know they can't look past resurgent Ohio State when they visit the Buckeyes in Columbus on Thursday

Nebraska visits Ohio State with NCAA Tournament in view

Streaking Nebraska can see its first NCAA Tournament in 10 years on the horizon, but the Cornhuskers know they can’t look past resurgent Ohio State when they visit the Buckeyes in Columbus on Thursday.

The Cornhuskers (20-8, 10-7 Big Ten) have won four straight. For coach Fred Hoiberg, now isn’t the time to take the foot off the gas pedal.

“I like the way we’re playing, but you’ve got to keep it going. You can’t exhale right now,” he said. “This is too important and it’s too big this time of year to have a letdown.”

The Buckeyes (16-12, 6-11) have won two of three under interim head coach Jake Diebler after Chris Holtmann was fired on Feb. 14.

The Buckeyes downed Michigan State 60-57 on Sunday when Dale Bonner hit a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left to end Ohio State’s 17-game road losing streak.

“I was so happy,” Diebler said. “You watch that and you watch it 30 times because you’re looking at the individual guys and their reactions. … The joy in our guys chasing Dale, those pictures are special.”

Ohio State won despite the absence of forward Jamison Battle (sprained ankle), who averages 14.2 points and was leading the conference with 2.7 3-pointers per game through Tuesday.

Diebler said on his radio show Monday that Battle might be available against the Cornhuskers after being held out as a precaution.

“If we had another day or two, it might’ve been different,” Diebler said. “We wanted to do what was best for him. No one anticipates this being a long-term thing.”

Ohio State retains a slim hope that wins in the final three games of the regular season and a deep run in the Big Ten tournament like last season — the Buckeyes won three games — can earn them a spot in the NCAA tourney .

Meanwhile, Nebraska likes its March Madness chances now that it has 20 wins and counting. The Cornhuskers’ most recent postseason appearance was in 2019 when they entered the NIT with 19 wins.

The last time they made the NCAA Tournament was at the end of the 2013-14 season after also winning 19. The Cornhuskers are led by guard Keisei Tominaga, who averages 14.0 points per game.