It was going to a be a difficult task for Rutgers to take down the hottest team in the Big Ten regardless, but the loss of senior captain and heart of the team in Mike Williams, made it that much harder. With Williams out indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Scarlet Knights struggled mightily on the offensive end and lacked effort on the boards. Ohio State overwhelmed Rutgers starting at the midway point of the first half and despite solid defense, the Scarlet Knights had no answer offensively to make it a game. OSU won 68-46 in a game that was over early on in the second half.
Rutgers fell behind early at 8-4, but with the shot clock running down, Geo Baker made a nice crossover, step back move to create space and knocked down a three-pointer at the top of the arc. That made it a one point game with 13 minutes left in the half. Eugene Omoruyi followed soon after with an up and under lay-in, giving Rutgers a 9-8 lead with 10:46 to play in the opening frame.
The struggles on offense continued for both teams, as the score was just 11-9 Ohio State with 8 minutes left in the first half. Rutgers was just 4 of 17 from the field and the Buckeyes were 4 of 16. However, two straight turnovers led to back to back transition baskets from Ohio State, forcing Steve Pikiell to call a timeout with 7:02 remaining in the opening frame. Rutgers didn’t break an over four minute scoreless streak until Eugene Omoruyi made both free throw attempts to cut the lead to four. It didn’t stop the bleeding, as the Buckeyes saw an opportunity and it’s best player heated up from behind the arc.
Buckeyes star and the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Keita Bates-Diop, had just 2 points up to this point in the game. He broke through with a big three-pointer off a screen, giving the visitors a seven point lead, its largest of the game at that point. Bates-Diop then made another one from the same exact spot on the next possession to give Ohio State a commanding 21-11 lead, making it a 13-2 run. Rutgers was mired in over six minutes without a field goal and had missed ten shots in a row from the floor. Doucoure picked up his third foul soon after.
The run continued as Kyle Young made back to back baskets, his first points in five games, until Corey Sanders made a difficult layup in traffic to cut the lead to 26-13, ending a crushing 18-2 run by Ohio State. It snapped a 8-plus minute drought between field goals for Rutgers. A Shaq Doorson dunk in the final seconds of the half made it a 28-15 Buckeyes lead at the break. It was the lowest point total at the half this season for Rutgers, who shot a dreadful 6 of 31 from the floor for just 19% in the opening frame. The Scarlet Knights played solid defense, as OSU shot just 38% on 11 of 29 from the floor, but they were dominated on the boards. Ohio State held a +8 rebounding margin (25-17) and a 7-0 edge in fast break points. The outlook at the break was bleak for Rutgers.
It was warranted, as Ohio State went on a 10-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half to hold a insurmountable 38-15 lead. Souf Mensah hit 1 of 2 free throws and Issa Thiam hit a jumper, but the Buckeyes scored three quick buckets to hold a 44-18 lead at the under-16 timeout. The first possession after the stoppage, Buckeyes guard Kam Williams hit a three-pointer and was fouled by Sanders. He made it and the lead was 30 points for Ohio State with 13-plus minutes remaining in the game. Rutgers was just 7 of 40 from the field at this point.
Rutgers did get off the mat at that point, as they went on a 8-0 run with three-pointers from Geo Baker and Issa Thiam, as Sanders sprinkled in a jumper in between. After the under-12 timeout, Baker continued shooting the rock well, making a deep two-pointer, followed by draining a three-pointer on the next possession, making it a 13-0 run and the Buckeyes led 48-31 with just over ten minutes to play in the game. OSU freshman Kaleb Wesson scored in the paint to end the run. Rutgers was battling but trailed 52-33 at the under-8 timeout. They never got closer, as Ohio State won 68-46. They are now 6-0 in Big Ten play and tied with Purdue atop the league standings.
Ohio State was led by Keita Bates Diop, a leader for Big Ten player of the year, who had a game high 20 points and added 9 rebounds. Kam Williams scored 11 points while Wesson had 10 points and 9 rebounds. The Buckeyes are playing so well and the lack of shooters for Rutgers made them no match for a team that has now won nine of their last ten games. They shot 46% on the night, including 54% in the second half.
Rutgers shot just 29% in the game, but continued to take care of the basketball, committing just 5 turnovers to 11 for the Buckeyes. However, they were dominated on the boards, as OSU was +16 on the glass (46 to 30). Ohio State also owned the paint, outscoring Rutgers 32-14. Despite the blow out loss, RU did hold OSU to 12 points below its season scoring average of 80 points.
On a night that Rutgers was terrible offensively, Geo Baker and Corey Sanders were the only players to score in double figures. Baker had a team high 14 points on 5 of 15 shooting, but was 4 of 8 from three-point range. It was odd that Baker didn’t register any other stat other than 1 steal, not producing an assist or turnover. Sanders wasn’t able to be as much of a factor as Rutgers needed, but finished with a 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting from the field. He added 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Eugene Omoruyi drew another two charges in this game, making that three straight contests he has done so and now has 15 on the season. He added 9 points, including making 5 of 6 free throws, after entering the game shooting just 49% from the line on the season. Freeman was a miserable 1 of 12 from the field for 2 points and he had 0 rebounds in 18 minutes of action, four days removed from when Freeman was sick and scored 15 points against Michigan State.
Next up for the Scarlet Knights is the Iowa Hawkeyes (10-9; 1-5), who visit the RAC on Wednesday night. They are tied for 12th place in the Big Ten with Rutgers (11-8; 1-5), so both teams will be hungry for a victory. Iowa is allowing opponents to score 84.8 points in conference play, which is tied for worst with Illinois. It’s a great opportunity for the Scarlet Knights, who will have a couple of days to adjust offensively with the loss of Mike Williams, who was sorely missed tonight. It's clear he is the heart of the team and they lacked fight without him. They’ll need to play tough defense and get back to being physical on the boards, as Iowa does shoot and rebound well. It’s an important game for sure, as Rutgers looks to get back on track with two-thirds of conference play remaining.
To read about Dave White’s Four Thoughts on this game, click here.
To read more on Mike Williams’ injury from Brian Fonseca, click here.