CHICAGO — Playing with its season on the line, Nebraska got off to a fast start and used a zone defense to control the pace for much of the first half.
Then, everything fell apart. In a hurry.
Brandon Ubel scored 16 points, but Nebraska went through a cold stretch that Ohio State turned into a big run in a 71-50 victory over the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals on Friday night.
"I thought their defensive pressure was the difference in the game," coach Tim Miles said. "I thought we had a good start, just couldn't get the clock to run fast enough at the end of the first half. But credit Ohio State, the defensive pressure made all the difference."
Shavon Shields scored 14 points for Nebraska (15-18), which advanced with a 57-55 victory over seventh-seeded Purdue on Thursday. The Cornhuskers shot 37.9 percent in the second half, not nearly good enough to keep up with the surging Buckeyes.
Bothered by Ohio State's length and athleticism, Nebraska committed 15 turnovers that led to 21 points for the Buckeyes.
"It was definitely something that the game came down to was us not handling the pressure well, kind of being loose with the ball at times," Ubel said. "It ended up costing us the game. Obviously it's frustrating when you're turning the ball over and they're turning it into buckets at the other end but we just weren't tight with our game and let that pressure get to us a little bit."
DeShaun Thomas and Sam Thompson had 19 points apiece for Ohio State (24-7), which used a blistering second half to shoot 59.1 percent for the game. LaQuinton Ross finished with 11 points and Aaron Craft had eight assists, giving him 500 for his career.
"We got off to a slow start and I thought once we focused in and got our minds where they needed to be, we were very effective, especially with the defense," coach Thad Matta said.
Thompson, who grew up in Chicago and went to high school near the United Center, was 6 for 6 from the field in the second half, when the Buckeyes were 17 for 22 overall. The 6-foot-7 forward also had a steal and blocked a shot while playing 28 minutes in his first game in the current home of the NBA's Chicago Bulls.
"It felt great to be home, playing front of my family and all that," he said. "It's always fun to play back in Chicago."
The Buckeyes turned a close game into a runaway with an impressive 30-5 spree spanning halftime that included a little bit of everything. Ross connected on three consecutive 3-pointers, Craft made a couple of nifty passes and Thompson had two jams to go along with a 3-pointer.
Thomas closed it out with a strong reverse dunk that lifted the Buckeyes to a 54-28 lead with 12:01 left. The junior forward flexed and yelled after the big slam led to a celebration on the Ohio State sideline.
"Once they get on a roll, they're a talented team," Shields said. "They're hard to stop so if we eliminated the turnovers, I think we played them well in the half court but once they got in transition, it kind of killed us."
The Buckeyes have won six straight games and seven of eight overall heading into Saturday's tournament semifinal.
Ohio State went 9 for 17 from 3-point range in its third victory against Nebraska this season. The Buckeyes also beat the Cornhuskers 70-44 on Jan. 2 and won 63-56 at Nebraska a month later.
"We know we've got to take our shooting really seriously," Thomas said. "The one thing we did out there, we shared the ball as a team. We hit the right spots. Sam Thompson had a great shooting night."
Ohio State settled down after a slow start and put together a 16-2 run to take a 22-17 lead on a jumper by Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 5:20 left. Thomas was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 13 seconds remaining and made all three foul shots to lift the Buckeyes to a 28-23 halftime lead.
"That was a critical play," Miles said. "It hurt us, but at the same time we kind of did it to ourselves to start the second half. Their ability to get in transition and hurt us off their defensive pressure was the key to the game."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap