LINCOLN, Neb. — Freshman Malaki Branham scored 35 points, Jamari Wheeler made two 3-pointers early in overtime and No. 13 Ohio State beat Nebraska 87-79 Sunday night.
Ohio State (9-2, 3-0 Big Ten) hadn’t played since Dec. 11 because of a COVID-19 outbreak in their program and, with the exception of Branham, the Buckeyes struggled to find their shooting touch and nearly lost to the struggling Cornhuskers (6-8, 0-3).
EJ Liddell, who came in averaging 21.6 points per game, was just 2 of 14 for Ohio State.
Bryce McGowens led the Huskers with 18 points.
Branham had scored in double figures only once prior to Sunday, and his breakout game was well-timed, getting 21 of the Buckeyes’ first 32 points.
Branham had attempted just 15 3-pointers in his first 10 games, and Nebraska played off him on the perimeter to start. He made 5 of 7 3s in the first 15 minutes and drove the baseline for a dunk to get Ohio State out to a 30-22 lead.
Meanwhile, Liddell and the rest of the Buckeyes combined to miss 15 of their first 19 shots.
The Huskers went up 32-30 late in the first half following a 10-0 run. Branham ended that streak with a mid-range jumper, and Zed Key’s inside basket gave the Buckeyes a 34-32 lead at the break.
Derrick Walker scored seven straight points for Nebraska in just over three minutes to give his team the lead late in regulation, and Lat Mayen converted Kobe Webster’s pass for a backdoor dunk to put the Huskers up 72-67.
But Wheeler’s 3 from the wing cut it to two with 28 seconds left. After Mayen missed two free throws, he fouled Liddell underneath the basket on the other end with 8.9 seconds left.
Liddell made both free throws to tie it 72-72, and the game went to overtime after Eugene Brown III blocked Walker’s try from under the basket at the buzzer.