In the early part of the game, it was clear Rutgers was getting manhandled in the paint and wasn't finishing on layups or three's. Ohio State started up 22-6 and were completely dominating. Rutgers then increased the pressure and effort on defense, which unsurprisingly got them back into the game. Off their defense, they were able to up the tempo and capitalize on several missed shots from the Buckeyes by scoring in transition. Rutgers went on a 13-0 run to cut the Buckeye lead to 22-19 with 4:46 to play in the half, Corey Sanders put the exclamation point on the early comeback with this slam in transition.
Thad Matta is a good coach and proved it yet again by calling a timeout and then switching to a three-quarters press on defense. It got Rutgers out of rhythm and forced a couple of bad turnovers, leading to a 13-7 Buckeye run to end the half up 35-26.
Sanders continued his scoring prowess with 13 points on 6-10 from the field in the opening frame. Unfortunately the rest of the team shot a brutal 5-25 from the field for a team effort of 31.4%. OSU didn't shoot great but was better than Rutgers, hitting on 15-35 from the field for 42.9%. OSU also won the rebounding battle 27-20 in the first half.
Rutgers inevitably lost the first 4-5 minute stretch after the break and was outscored 9-5 before falling down as much as 52-36 with 13:29 to play. Then Mike Williams stepped up his defense in transition, making a steal and long pass to Foreman for the dunk.
That play started Rutgers 17-8 run to cut the lead to 60-53 with 8 minutes to play. During that stretch, Rutgers had cut the lead to down to 12 points with 11+ to play, when Sanders took over. He drove between two sets of Buckeyes before finishing with a layup, drawing the foul and completing the three-point play. Sanders then made another layup on the next possession, cutting the lead to 7 points. Both teams went back and forth for the next six minutes and it was 70-62 with five minutes to play when Sanders almost pulled off a steal for what would have led to a runaway highlight dunk, but it went out of bounds instead. That was as close at Rutgers would get, as Ohio State stretched the lead to 13 points, ultimately winning 79-69.
Kam Williams, Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop led the way for the Buckeyes, combining for all nine three-pointers their team scored and 65 points between them. While Williams provided the scoring punch off the bench with 19 points, Tate and Bates-Diop dominated in the paint as well as behind the arc. Tate finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Diop lead all scorers with 24 points and 14 boards. The Buckeyes shot 51.3% from the field and held a +13 rebounding edge. JaQuan Lyle, who had a triple double in the last meeting between these teams, lost the battle of freshman point guards, scoring just 4 points on 1-6 from the floor. He did have 5 assists and 3 rebounds, but three turnovers as well.
Sanders continued his improved shot selection for most of the game and was 10-16 from the field, before missing his last three shots of the game, all from behind the arc. He did have a rare off night from the charity stripe, shooting just 2-7 from the line. He finished with 23 points, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 rebounds. It was his third straight game scoring over 20 points. He also should have had at least a couple more assists, if not for several misses near the rim by teammates. Foreman was a culprit more than once and while he looks ragged on offense at times, attacked the rim in the second half and finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds. The only other Rutgers player to score in double figures was Mike Williams, who scored 13 points despite shooting a tough 3-12 from the field. He did shoot 5-6 from the free throw line and had 3 steals. However, the team shot 38.5% from the field for the game, including a horrid 3-20 from three-point range.
So the misery continues, as the conference losing streak extends to 27 games. Credit the players for not quitting and playing hard, but they continue to fail to put together a winning effort. This isn't recreational basketball, saluting the effort game after game means little as the losses continue to mount. They continue to miss too many shots on offense, many of them near the rim, and have too many prolonged lapses on defense. This game would have been much worse if Ohio State had taken full advantage of all the open three-pointers they were given. On the flip side, Rutgers is a terrible shooting team from deep. And so Rutgers falls to 0-12 in the Big Ten and 6-19 overall with just six games remaining. Next up is a rematch with Illinois on the road Tuesday night. Rutgers will be looking for payback after losing in triple overtime to the Illini at the RAC ten days ago.