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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #14 Preview vs. #16 Ohio State

Includes how to watch, stats, coach Pikiell’s pregame thoughts, and keys to victory

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

#16 Ohio State (12-2; 2-1) At Rutgers (7-6; 0-3)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey

Tip-off: Wednesday, January 9th at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin & Stephen Bardo

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 384 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Matt Howe & Sam Marsdale

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #115; Ohio State #24

(Rutgers has moved back 6 spots since the loss to Maryland)

KenPom Prediction: Ohio State 67 Rutgers 62; Rutgers has an 32% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Ohio State -6

Series History: Ohio State leads all-time 6-2 including the last meeting, a 27 point home victory last February.

Game 13 recap, four thoughts, and additional observations

About Ohio State

Head coach Chris Holtmann is in his second season in Columbus and won Big Ten coach of the year in his first season on the job. The Buckeyes are off the a 12-2 start with notable non-conference victories over Cincinnati, Creighton, and UCLA, while losing to Syracuse. In conference action, they’ve beaten Minnesota and Illinois, but lost to Michigan State this past Saturday.

As a team, the Buckeyes are shooting 46.7% from the floor, 36.7% from three-point range, and 72.5% from the free throw line. They’ve scored less than 75 points just once in their past seven games. They are a well balanced team, ranking nationally 33rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 22nd defensively. They are allowing only 63.9 points per game and holding opponents to just 39.2% shooting from the field. Ohio State is very effective at getting to the free throw line, with 22.5% of its points per game coming from the charity stripe.


6’1” senior C.J. Jackson - 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists

6’3” freshman Luther Muhammad - 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists. 1.0 steal

6’3” freshman Duane Washington Jr. - 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists

6’3” senior Keyshawn Woods - 7.9 points, 3.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds


6’9” sophomore Caleb Wesson - 17.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 55.0% FG

6’6” junior Andre Wesson - 7.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists

6’8” sophomore Kyle Young - 7.6 points, 4.9 rebounds. 71.7% FG

Steve Pikiell Pregame Thoughts

On the recent play of Montez Mathis

“I love the progress that he has made. He has come a long way. I want to make sure he stays in attack mode, but we also need him on the floor. Part of being in attack mode is you are aggressive and getting some fouls called. We are really trying to teach him how to harness that and not pick up quick fouls. I really love his progress and see it every day. He has done a great job in the classroom and with his practice habits. He is seeing the results in these games and he is playing against top shelf teams. I really like the way he’s rebounding, the way he’s attacking guys, the way he’s getting to the free-throw line. I really do think better days are ahead for him. I’ve seen his confidence grow with every practice and every game, so we’ve got to keep him on that trajectory.”

On the current state of the offense

“We’re moving in the right direction offensively. We’re running a bit more. We need to stay out of foul trouble and find someone that can be consistent knocking down threes. I like the way the rest of the team is progressing. We need our guys to keep shooting the ball and good results will happen for us. We have that capability; we just need to put it together.”

On instilling confidence regarding shooting

“That’s a huge part of this. They are in the gym and do a really good job, especially during winter break. I keep telling them I believe them, be confident, if you are open, shoot the ball. When they start thinking about things, that’s what makes it complicated for a shooter. Hesitation usually leads to poor results. Making sure they are shooting in more game-like speed and just keep working on it. I’ve been around a lot of good shooters who have been through some rough stretches. They can then go on some unbelievable stretches in making shots too. I really believe that these guys will. Ron Harper Jr. is a good shooter. He has to keep shooting and good results will happen for him. Issa Thiam has been a solid three-point shooter for us for two years. I know he can shoot the ball. He’ll have better days ahead too. All the players that are shooting from the perimeter have the capability to make them and I believe in them. They are working hard to make sure they do better”

Health status of Mamadou Doucoure

“He’s had some stuff done the last few days, testing. Hopefully we’ll know more later with some results. Those backs are problems. He’s in an out of things practice-wise. His back isn’t feeling good some days. He wakes up and feels better other days.”

Keys To Victory

Shoot Better Than 40%

Honestly, this really is the biggest key to the game. If Rutgers can’t make shots at a serviceable rate they have no chance to win. Shooting much better than 40% is preferred but I do believe if Rutgers rebounds and plays defense at a high level, they can win Big Ten games shooting in the low 40’s. Having confidence in this team to shoot better than that mark is another story. However, Rutgers won’t stay as cold shooting the basketball as they’ve been forever and when a few perimeter shots begin to fall, this team’s confidence will grow. Let’s hope it starts in this game, although it won’t be easy against such a good defensive team as Ohio State. Ball movement, shot selection and attacking the rim are keys to success.

Win Turnover Margin

Rutgers has committed only 13 turnovers it’s last three halves, but did commit 7 during the 10 minute period of the first half that Maryland outscored them 33-6. Reducing turnovers has been a work in progress and Rutgers needs to keep moving in the right direction. While Ohio State only averages 12 turnovers per game, they aren’t proficient in forcing takeaways from its opponents. Rutgers needs to be smart with the basketball and maximize its scoring chances within possessions and limit easy baskets from the Buckeyes off the turnovers they do commit.

Rebounding Battle

A way for Rutgers to upset teams is to win the game on the glass and tonight is no exception. All hands on deck are needed and they need to limit Ohio State to as few shots per each possession as possible. Offensively, all five players need to attack the glass and be aggressive in tracking down missed shots. Taking advantage of second chance scoring opportunities will be a huge factor in this game. Also, while Rutgers needs to try and get as many offensive rebounds as possible, they can’t afford to get beat in transition when they fail to grab them.

Avoid Big Runs

Runs are going to happen by both teams in every game, but Rutgers isn’t good enough to surrender anything much worse than a 10-2 type stretch. The Maryland game was over before halftime because the Scarlet Knights essentially could do nothing right for an extended period. This is why Rutgers needs to play hard defensively for 40 minutes so that when they do struggle shooting wise, they can stay in the game. They also tend to play better offensively when they are locked in on the defensive end. Generating fast break opportunities on steals and turnovers would be huge in this game as well.

Get To The Line & Take Advantage

Rutgers hasn’t attacked the rim and gotten to the free throw line nearly enough this season and it needs happen much more so. Pikiell had this to say about it during his pregame conference call.

“Mathis is really a guy that can get to the free throw line and per his minutes, he gets there as much as anybody on our team. We need that from him and Eugene Omoruyi. It helps our defense a lot and enables me to change up to do different things on free throw situations.”

Settling for three-pointers has been liability for Rutgers and they need to make a concerted effort to penetrate into the paint and get closer looks at the rim. Caleb McConnell and Geo Baker need to attack more, as well as Mathis. When Rutgers does get to the line, they need to take advantage and shoot at 70% or better to win this game. They are capable, but have failed to do so on a consistent basis. If they want to win tonight, this is a major key to doing so.