Even the most optimistic Nebraska men's basketball fans had to wonder if Monday night was when the season would begin to unravel.

You're forgiven if you began to seriously contemplate that bleak notion with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the Big Ten battle against 17th-ranked Ohio State. That's when Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross basically bulldozed through two Huskers on his way to the rim, his lay-in giving OSU a one-point lead.

Somewhere, Urban Meyer smiled proudly.

Hey, nobody said saving a season would be easy.

Game on.

Something surprising happened down the stretch. Nebraska, mired in a five-game losing streak, responded extremely well. It attacked the basket, got stops on defense, made some free throws. You perhaps wondered if the Huskers would stick together. Check. You wondered if they might self-destruct in the very late stages, maybe with one of those god-awful scoring droughts we've seen far too often at NU over the years.

Not this time. Not even close.

"We played as a team, we played for each other," Nebraska sophomore swingman Shavon Shields said after the Huskers' 68-62 triumph before a charged-up crowd of 15,342 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Other than a couple lapses, Shields said, Nebraska played to its expectations for a full 40 minutes.

As a result, ladies and gentleman, we have a season. Or perhaps I should say we still have a season.

Oh, yes, there were doubts.

Nebraska (9-8, 1-4 Big Ten) was in dangerous territory. Thursday's game at Penn State is no gimme. It easily could've been seven straight losses entering Sunday's home game against Minnesota, which features a fiery new coach and No. 35 RPI.

Nebraska is a young team, with six regular contributors in their first Big Ten seasons. There remain questions about the team's chemistry. You wondered if this bunch might crack under the weight of seven straight league losses, or maybe eight or even nine. Heck, even mighty Ohio State (15-4, 2-4), a veteran and proven group, looks like it might be cracking.

The line separating profound joy and prolonged grief can be razor-thin.

"You have to respect this league," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said.

Exactly. But second-year Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he wasn't concerned about his team folding. It does seem to be a resolute bunch, its idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. To wit: Sophomore swingman Terran Petteway, the fifth-leading scorer in the Big Ten, committed eight turnovers Monday, with no assists. That borders on bizarre.

The Huskers' most creative offensive player, junior Deverell Biggs, had six turnovers, with three assists. But man, he can be fun to watch.

Meanwhile, Miles preaches the importance of staying with the process. He said something interesting: There are no guarantees a program will improve in a head coach's second season. It's not automatic, he said. You have to continue to believe.

This victory should help greatly in that regard, in part because it reinforces the notion Nebraska could be very difficult to beat in its sparkling new building. Ask Michigan, which escaped 71-70, NU's only loss in nine home games.

"We shouldn't have lost that one," Miles said flatly.