INDIANAPOLIS — Forward LaQuinton Ross collected 26 points and 13 rebounds as No. 24 Ohio State rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to beat Nebraska 71-67 in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
After dominating the early stages and then going cold for long stretches, the No. 5 seed Buckeyes (25-8) finally regained a lead in the final minute.
Guard Amedeo Della Valle secured the win with four free throws in the final 12 seconds.
Della Valle finished with 12 points as the Buckeyes earned a date with Michigan in Saturday’s opening semifinals, set to tip off at 1:40 p.m.
Forward Terran Petteway scored 20 points, forward Walter Pitchford had 15 and guard Shavon Shields added 12 for the No 4 seed Cornhuskers (19-12).
Nebraska still has a good shot at landing an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament, although beating Ohio State would have made its situation more secure.
Shields had four points while guard Ray Gallegos added a jumper as Nebraska scored seven unanswered points for its first lead of the game on the way to a 31-28 halftime advantage.
Shields and Gallegos led the Cornhuskers with eight first-half points while Nebraska shots just 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) over the first 20 minutes. Williams and Ross had eight apiece for the Buckeyes.
Petteway scored seven points as Nebraska opened the second half with a 17-2 run for a 48-30 lead with 13:40 to play.
Ohio State then perked up with nine unanswered points, starting with a Ross 3-pointer with 13:33 showing. He added a jumper while Della Valle had back-to-back scores as the Buckeyes cut the deficit to single digits at 48-39 with 11:52 to play.
The Buckeyes continued to chip away and made it a two-point game with 4:37 left on forward Sam Johnson’s dunk, leaving the Cornhuskers with a shaky 58-56 lead.
Ohio State finally caught Nebraska with 1:52 to play as Ross hit two free throws to force a 63-63 tie. Petteway fouled out with 58.1 seconds showing, and Ross hit two more free throws for a 65-63 Ohio State lead.
Guard Aaron Craft’s driving layup with 17 seconds left extended the lead to 67-63.
Nebraska had a first-round bye as a top-four seed. The Buckeyes qualified for Friday’s game with a 63-61 first-round victory over Purdue.
Ohio State has made five straight trips to the NCAA tournament since 2009, and last season, it reached a regional final before falling 70-66 to Wichita State, an eventual national semifinalist.
NOTES: Ohio State owns an 11-3 all-time series lead over Nebraska, including a split in a pair of 2013-14 regular-season games. … The Buckeyes are 2-0 in Big Ten tournament play against the Cornhuskers, including a 71-50 decision in a 2013 opening round game. … G Aaron Craft was named the league’s top defensive player. … Nebraska G/F Shavon Shields shared Big Ten player of the week honors after averaging 21.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games. … Conrhuskers G/F Terran Petteway landed first-team all-conference honors by both the coaches and media, while Nebraska coach Tim Miles was named coach of the year by his colleagues. … G Tai Webster has come the longest distance to play. He hails from Auckland, New Zealand, and at age 17 was the youngest ever to make New Zealand’s national team.
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