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Rutgers Men's Basketball Game Preview: Ohio State

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

TV: 6:30 pm on BTN

Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM)

Spread: Ohio State -19

Injury Update

Deshawn Freeman, Shaq Doorson, and Ibrahima Diallo all remain out indefinitely. There has been no official word on Jonathan Laurent for tonight, but Eddie Jordan was hopeful he would play. Center Greg Lewis is also questionable for this game with knee trouble. Depth will continue to be a major issue for tonight's game.

UPDATE:

About Ohio State

The Buckeyes come in at 3-1 in the Big Ten and 11-6 overall this season.  They shocked Kentucky earlier this season and own Big Ten wins over Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern.  This team is very talented but also very young. They struggled early in the season, suffering a four game losing streak, falling to UT-Arlington, Louisiana Tech, Memphis and Virginia. They rank 10th in the country in blocks per game and 19th in field goal % defense at 38.1%.  The paint will be a difficult place for Rutgers tonight, as the Buckeyes boast centers Daniel Giddens and Trevon Thompson, 6'10" and 6'11" respectively.  They combine for 9 rebounds and 4 blocks a game, but also bring a defensive presence that will cause problems in the paint.

On the offensive end, Ohio State has four players that average double figures in scoring, led by junior forward Marc Loving with 14.7 points per game, along with 6 rebounds. Forward Keita Bates-Diop averages 12 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block per game.  Their young backcourt comprised of Jae'Sean Tate, Jaquan Lyle, and Kam Williams, are super athletic.  Tate averages over 10 points and 6 rebounds a game on 50% shooting from the field. Lyle is their point guard and most versatile player, averaging 10 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game. Williams is their best long range shooter, averaging 51% from the field and 45% from three-point range.

While Ohio State is a much more athletic team than Rutgers, they are young and are not a very good shooting team. They average 45.2% from the field but only 33.8% from three-point range and a brutal 64.9% from the free throw line.  Overall, that isn't much better than Rutgers, who shoot 41.9% from the field, 33.2% from three, and 68.5% from the free throw line.

Keys To The Game

D.J. Foreman, Please Stand Up

In the first seven games of the season, Foreman was averaging 9.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1 block per game while shooting 51% from the field. Once frontcourt mate Deshawn Freeman went out with an injury that has sidelined him the past ten games, Rutgers desperately needed Foreman to step up his production.  It has't happened, as Foreman's production has actually gone down, averaging just 6.7 points per game on 45% shooting from the field. More troubling, Foreman has averaged just 5 shot attempts and only 2 rebounds in his last three games.  Foreman needs to be a focus on offense and be aggressive on the boards. If Rutgers is going to challenge their opponent in any conference game this season, Foreman needs to breakout and be force in the paint.  Tonight would be a great time to start!

Perimeter Shooting

Rutgers shot just 17-51 (33%) from the field and a horrid 2-17 (12%) from long range in their 34 point loss to Nebraska on Saturday. They actually shot 15-34 (44%) from inside the arc and need to focus on working for better looks. By not establishing any presence in the paint and settling from long range, their outside shooting helped result in the program's worst loss at home since 1961.  Corey Sanders was 0-5 and Bishop Daniels was 0-3 from three-point range.  Sanders is less of a concern, as he is still shooting 35% from deep for the season and can chalk up that game as an off night. However, Daniels has never been a strong long range shooter and is down to 27% for the season from three-point range. His strength is driving to the basket and slashing to the rim, something he needs to focus on more. The best two outside shooters on the team, Justin Goode and Omari Grier, only took three attempts combined, with Goode making one. That's the bigger issue, as Rutgers needs better shot distribution and put the ball in the hands of their best long range shooters.  This is part of Sanders development as a point guard, getting players the ball where they can be effective. It's no secret Rutgers must shoot well from three to have any chance to win tonight, or any game moving forward.

Slow Down The Game

Nebraska ran at will against Rutgers and the game got away from them almost immediately.  Eddie Jordan even cited an instance that a Nebraska player dribbled the full length of the court and went in for an uncontested layup, calling it the worst play he has seen in his three seasons.  Rutgers continued to force contested jump shots off the dribble and didn't play much defense at all, resulting in a predictable outcome.  They must slow down the pace tonight, working the ball on offense and bearing down on defense, making Ohio State work for every basket. The amount of times they were beat down to the other end of the court after a missed shot on offense was unacceptable. Improvement in that area is a must.

Give Max Effort

To the last point, it all starts with effort. The Nebraska game was easily the worst effort Rutgers has given all season. After playing with energy and intensity against Maryland, despite being severely shorthanded, those traits were completely absent on Saturday.  As soon as Nebraska hit their first few shots, the floodgates opened, as Rutgers never challenged them on defense the rest of the game. They are playing at Ohio State for the first time tonight and need to stay together and play for each other.  If they come out flat and a step slow again, the Buckeyes have the talent to beat them by more than Nebraska did.  Eddie Jordan said on Saturday that "it's a learning year and fans have to understand."  Some do more than others, but at a minimum, we all expect to see a group of players that give a maximum effort on the court.  Tonight will be a big test in that regard.