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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #21 Preview At Ohio State

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Includes how to watch, stats, and keys to victory

Ohio State v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Rutgers (11-9; 4-6) At Ohio State (13-7; 3-6)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio

Tip-off: Saturday, February 2nd at 12:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Lisa Byington & Stephen Bardo

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 383 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Justin Sontupe & Tevin Johnson-Smith

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #90; Ohio State #34

(Rutgers has moved up 7 spots since the win over Indiana)

KenPom Prediction: Ohio State 68 Rutgers 59; Rutgers has an 19% chance to win.

Vegas Line: TBD

Series History: Ohio State lead all-time 6-3, but Rutgers won the previous meeting this season 64-61, which we covered here.

SB Nation Ohio State site: Land Grant Holy Land

Game 20 recap & four thoughts

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 were off the a 12-2 start with notable non-conference victories over Cincinnati, Creighton, and UCLA, while losing to Syracuse. However, they have struggled in Big Ten play, having lost six of its last seven games. The only win was on the road against Nebraska, but they are coming off a 16 point road loss to Michigan earlier this week.

As a team, the Buckeyes are shooting 45.5% from the floor, 35.3% from three-point range, and 72.6% from the free throw line. They’ve haven’t scored more than 70 points in their past six games, averaging just 61.6 points during this stretch.

In Big Ten play, Ohio State ranks 10th in offensive efficiency (99.3) and 5th in defensive efficiency (103.2). For the season, the Buckeyes have the 18th best defensive efficiency rating in Division I at 92.7.

Notable Contributors

Backcourt

6’1” senior C.J. Jackson - 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals

6’3” freshman Luther Muhammad - 9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists. 1.2 steals

6’3” freshman Duane Washington Jr. - 7.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists

6’3” senior Keyshawn Woods - 6.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds

6’5 sophomore Musa Jallow - 3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds

Frontcourt

6’9” sophomore Caleb Wesson - 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists

6’6” junior Andre Wesson - 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists

6’8” sophomore Kyle Young - 7.3 points, 4.8 rebounds. 73.2% FG (injured)

6’9” freshman Jaedon LeDee - 3.2 points, 1.9 rebounds

Injury Report

Mamadou Doucoure remains out indefinitely with a back issue. For Ohio State, Kyle Young has missed the past three games with a stress fracture in his right leg and will not play on Saturday.

Keys To Victory

Stick With What Is Working

Things started to click for Rutgers against Ohio State by taking less three-pointers and focusing on getting to the rim more. It’s developed into a formula that is working for the Scarlet Knights. Win the rebounding battle, play lock down defense, attack the basket and get to the free throw line.

The Buckeyes are thin up front and susceptible to teams that play like Rutgers has been on the offensive end. Ohio State has the second to worst defensive free throw rate in Big Ten play, which means its opponents are getting to the free throw line at a high percentage (44.2%). They also have the worst block rate at 4.1% and with Young out, their depth is suspect down low.

The one positive for the Buckeyes has been limiting opponents on the offensive glass to just 26.4%, which is fourth best in the conference. However, that is a strength of Rutgers, who have the 30th best offensive rebounding rate in the country 34.5% and are 8th in conference play (29.9%). Winning the battle of the boards, especially on the offensive end will be a major key to this game.

In the last meeting, Ohio State’s Luther Muhammad shut down Geo Baker for the majority of the game. Rutgers was able to win in part because Mathis, Harper, Jr. and Shaq Carter also scored in double figures. With Omoruyi back, Rutgers needs to continue to share the basketball and look for contributions from as many players as possible. Peter Kiss has done a great job filling a role of instant offense off the bench and giving this team a spark of late. To win on the road, Rutgers needs to continue with its all hands on deck approach.

Attack Kaleb Wesson

The 6’9” big man is the Buckeyes best player, but he has a problem staying out of foul trouble. Despite scoring 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds against Rutgers, he only played 26 minutes and sat during a key stretch of the first half in foul trouble, as well as finishing the game with four fouls. Rutgers needs to have the same attacking mindset towards the rim and being that Wesson is the biggest body in the paint, he’s likely to pick up fouls once again. With Eugene Omoruyi in the fold this time around, look for him to post Wesson up and do his best to draw contact. Another factor is Omoruyi looking to draw charges on Wesson on the other end. Eugene drew a pair of charges in each of the last two games and has 18 on the season so far. This will be a fascinating matchup to watch and key in the outcome of the game.

You Take It, No You Take It : Both Teams Turnover Prone

Rutgers and Ohio State are both having issues taking care of the basketball. The Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers in the road loss to Michigan on Tuesday and have averaged 16.2 per contest in the fives games since they lost to Rutgers. The Buckeyes have the worst turnover rate (21.4%) in Big Ten play on the offensive end. However, on the flip side Ohio State had the third best turnover rate (19.6%) on the defensive end and fourth best steal rate (10.4%).

What is very fortunate for the Scarlet Knights is they have committed 14 to 15 turnovers in each of their past three victories. They have gone through stretches of turning it over a an alarming rate, to having halves of just a handful of takeaways. They haven’t been able to take care of the basketball for an entire game of late, so doing so in this matchup would be timely. They only committed 10 turnovers in the win over Ohio State while forcing the Buckeyes into 13, which prevented the visitors from scoring many easy baskets at the RAC. They’ll need a similar result Saturday.

Defense For 40 Minutes

It’s simple, when Rutgers plays defense at a high level, they are a difficult for any opponent. They need to play tough on the defensive end for the entire game and not give the Buckeyes any easy baskets. In the last meeting, Rutgers played some 2-3 zone and even showed some three-quarter court pressure, both looks that the Buckeyes have struggled against at times this season. Expect more of the same on Saturday. The younger players have improved quite a bit on the defensive end and are starting to embrace the hard nosed mentality that head coach Steve Pikiell and the rest of the coaching staff preach. Rutgers has won these past three games in large part to committing themselves on the defensive end and it’s helped them offensively by getting out in transition and making better decisions in the halfcourt. The more locked in Rutgers is on defense in this game, the better chance they’ll have to win.

Fast Start

Rutgers has come from behind from double digit deficits in home victories over Nebraska and Indiana over the past week plus. However in just the program’s second road win since joining the Big Ten versus Penn State last weekend, Rutgers was out in front with the lead for almost the entire game. That’s the way you win on the road, establishing control early on and weathering runs from the home team. Rutgers can’t afford to get behind by anything close to double digits and need to limit runs from the Buckeyes. All of the keys mentioned above will help prevent that from happening, but its easier said then done.

Appropriate Pearl Jam Selection

We continue the feature in previews of incorporating an appropriate Pearl Jam song to the current state of the team. For the Ohio State game, I chose Do The Evolution. Rutgers has a major opportunity on Saturday to take another step forward. A win would give them a huge advantage over Ohio State in the Big Ten standings and complete a season series sweep, which no one would have believed in October. This team is growing by the game and gaining respect within the conference as well. A victory would continue to change the narrative around Rutgers basketball. Ohio State is going to be angry and hungry for a win, so Rutgers needs to absorb body blows and counter punch effectively. Do the evolution, baby!