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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #30 Preview vs. Ohio State

Includes how to watch, stats, and keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

Rutgers (13-16; 3-13) At #16 Ohio State (22-7; 13-3)

Where: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio (capacity 19,500)

Tip-off: Tuesday, February 20th at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Lisa Byington and Robbie Hummel

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: WCTC 1450 AM, WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #142; Ohio State #17

(Note: Rutgers improved 4 spots since the 10 point loss to Maryland)

KenPom Prediction: Ohio State 71 Rutgers 55; Rutgers has an 8% chance to win

Vegas Line: Ohio State - TBD

Series History: Ohio State leads the all-time series 5-2, including a 68-46 victory last month at the RAC on January 14th.

SB Nation Ohio State site: Land Grant Holy Land

About Ohio State

After starting Big Ten play with a surprising 9-0 record, first year head coach Chris Holtmann’s team has gone just 4-3 since. They were swept in a home and home series by Penn State, including losing by 23 points on the road last Thursday, and fell to their rival Michigan by 12 points this past Sunday in Ann Arbor. Even so, no one expected Ohio State to be within striking distance of the Big Ten title entering the last week of the regular season. They are one game behind Michigan State, but own the tiebreaker due to their victory over the Spartans in early January.

The Buckeyes are a balanced team, as their adjusted offensive efficiency rating is 33rd in all of Division I and are 15th in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. In Big Ten play, Ohio State has the third best offensive efficiency rating, only behind Purdue and Michigan State. They are shooting 55.1% from two-point range in conference play, which is best in the league, and are third in effective field goal percentage overall. For the season, Chris Holtmann’s team is shooting solidly across the board with 48.4% from the floor, 35.2% from three-point range, and 73.0% from the free throw line.

Defensively, Ohio State have the best efficiency rating in Big Ten play. They are holding opponents to the lowest offensive rebounding rate in the league. The Buckeyes are also holding conference opponents to the second lowest two-point shooting percentage and third lowest effective field goal percentage. In the first meeting, Ohio State held Rutgers to just 29% shooting from the floor and held a +16 rebounding margin.

Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Ohio State:

6’7” junior forward Keita Bates-Diop - 19.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.6 assists

6’4” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate - 12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 steal

6’1” junior guard C.J Jackson - 12.2 points, 4.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal

6’9” freshman forward Kaleb Wesson - 10.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist

6’2” senior guard Kam Williams - 7.7 points, 2.0 rebounds

6’2” senior guard Andrew Dakich - 3.1 points, 2.1 assists, 1.7 rebounds

Know Your Three-Point Shooters:

Andrew Dakich - 14 of 29 for 48.3%

Kam Williams - 31 of 72 for 43.1%

C.J. Jackson - 52 of 136 for 38.2%

Keita Bates-Diop - 54 of 144 for 37.5%

Rutgers Notes:

Rutgers is 11th nationally in offensive rebounding (13.59), 12th in scoring defense (63.6) and 19th in rebounding (39.55), as well as 28th in field goal defense (40.6%)......Per KenPom, Rutgers has the 308th offensive efficiency rating in Division I and 17th in defensive efficiency......RU has played the most difficult conference schedule in the Big Ten so far, per KenPom.…..The last time Rutgers defeated a ranked team on the road when was when they beat #13 Pittsburgh by the score of 77-64 on January 26th, 2008.


Keys To Victory

Start Both Halves Fast

Rutgers fell behind 10-0 in the first half and allowed a 7-0 run to start the second half in Saturday’s 10 point loss at Maryland. For a program that is just 1-34 on the road in Big Ten play since joining the conference, they can’t afford to have slow starts in either half. The defensive intensity needs to be there at the start of this game or the Buckeyes could put the score out of reach very early on. The Scarlet Knights don’t have the firepower to battle back from 15+ point deficits against a team as good as Ohio State, especially on the road. While Rutgers needs to come out with energy and purpose on both ends of the floor at the start of both halves, making Ohio State work for every basket and limiting them to one shot possessions is a major key to staying close in this game. They also can’t allow any easy baskets off of turnovers. As the game progresses, limiting big runs from the Buckeyes are a must.

Get To The Line & Convert

One way to prevent big runs and keep the game close is by getting to the free throw line often, something Rutgers has struggled with this season, as they have the second to worst rate at getting to the charity stripe in conference play. I know the refs have missed a lot of calls and it’s been frustrating, but that’s the reality for any perennial last place team. Rutgers needs to be stronger in attacking the rim and creating/selling fouls better. It’s harder to get calls on the road, especially against a team near the top of the standings, but the Scarlet Knights shouldn’t settle for too many jumpers either and need to attack in the paint. They can’t let any non-calls affect their style of play. If they can create a lot of contact with Buckeye defenders, the odds are they’ll get at least some of the calls in their favor, which is still better than shooting a low percentage from 15 feet plus away from the rim.

As for knocking the free throws down, Rutgers has been serviceable for awhile now and it’s surprising when you look at individual stats. Geo Baker, Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman, Mike Williams and Issa Thiam are all shooting 70% or better this season. Full disclosure, Issa and Freeman are right at that mark, but even so, if you had heard Rutgers would have five regulars shooting at or near 70% at the start of the season, you’d be happy. The point is for a team that is terrible shooting from the floor, getting to the line could provide a boost IF they can convert them.

Win Battle On The Boards

Rutgers were dominated on the glass in its first meeting against Ohio State, who held a 46-30 edge on the boards. This helped lead to a 32-14 advantage with points in the paint for the Buckeyes. For the Scarlet Knights to have any chance in this game, they need to rebound on both ends of the floor. Limiting offensive rebounds from Ohio State and finding a way to scrap and claw around the rim is essential. Effort and intensity is key for Rutgers to stay in this game by outworking the home team on the glass.

One factor in that first meeting was that it came just one day after Mike Williams suffered an ankle injury in the last ten minutes of practice. Rutgers looked a little shell shocked from the absence of their leader and missing their best rebounding guard was certainly a factor. Having Williams back will help, although he continues to work his way back after missing a month due to the injury. The frontcourt of Deshawn Freeman, Eugene Omoruyi, Mamadou Doucoure, Candido Sa, and Shaq Doorson need to be active and put a body on the big men of Ohio State after every shot, as well as win their fair share of individual battles.

Points Off Of Turnovers & Second Chance Points

Rutgers enters the last week of the regular season with the second worst effective field goal percentage (42.8%) in all of Division I basketball (351 teams). If you have followed this team closely, this isn’t a surprising statistic, as they have shot poorly all season. The Scarlet Knights started just 7 of 40 from the floor against Ohio State in their first meeting and hoping for jump shots to fall at a high enough rate in the rematch is simply unrealistic. Rutgers can’t rely on its halfcourt offense and needs to force turnovers.

They enter this game doing so at the third highest rate on the defensive end in conference play. While the Buckeyes have the fifth lowest turnover rate in league play on offense, Rutgers did a good job against them in the first meeting holding an 11-5 edge in takeaways. However, the Scarlet Knights need to produce more of them and generate points off of those turnovers, in order to be able to score enough to win the game. One area Rutgers has been effective at times this season is scoring through second chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds. They create a lot of chances by shooting a low percentage from the field. For them to stay in this game, they have to battle in the paint and finish shots near the rim, especially putback chances.

In The Bonus

Rutgers will be facing a major challenge in this game, but they also have nothing to lose coming in. It’s senior night for Ohio State and after two straight losses, the Buckeyes will be looking to take out their frustrations on the Scarlet Knights. Steve Pikiell and the coaching staff need to have their team ready to play from the opening tip, or things could get out of hand very quickly. However, the longer this team can hang around through grit and defense, the more confidence they’ll have to stay in the game. This will be the sixth contest of the season for Rutgers against the top three teams in the Big Ten. They were able to give legitimate scares to both Michigan State and Purdue, so why not against the Buckeyes when no one is expecting it? If they play the way they are capable of on defense and on the boards, as well as generate points off of OSU mistakes and through second chance points, they can do it again. The x-factor is whether Issa Thiam (37.2%) and Geo Baker (35.7%) can knock down some three-pointers, which would give Rutgers a fighting chance to pull off the upset. We know this team is very unpredictable, but it’s important they put up a fight against Ohio State to start off the final week of the regular season.