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Rutgers surges in second half, falls short at Ohio State

The Scarlet Knights made it interesting in the second half in Columbus.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

A game-winner that should not have been, an overtime victory in Piscataway — Rutgers has a recent history of competing well against the Buckeyes.

It did not look like that would be the case on Wednesday night as Ohio State built a 15-point lead toward the end of the first half and kept Rutgers at arms length early in the second.

Rutgers did not go down without a fight. The Scarlet Knights battled to within one point in the second half but could not go ahead over the final minutes. Ohio State was able to put on the finishing touches and defeat Rutgers 76-72 in Columbus.

Rutgers is now 0-5 against Quad 1 opponents this season. It continues to be winless at Value City Arena in eight attempts and has started the season with back-to-back conference losses for the first time since 2018-19.

A Gavin Griffiths three-pointer gave Rutgers a 20-19 lead midway through the first half. This would be the final lead for the Scarlet Knights. Scotty Middleton answered with a three and the Buckeyes would eventually balloon their lead to double-digits. They would lead over the final 30:43 of game time.

The comeback attempt was on in the second half as Rutgers fought and clawed its way back in slowly but surely. Derek Simpson and Mawot Mag sparked a run to get the Scarlet Knights to within a single point with 3:20 remaining. Ohio State would score the next six points, followed by made free throws, to put the game on ice.

The backcourt of Rutgers sparked the offense all night. Simpson finished with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting and eight rebounds. Noah Fernandes totaled 17 points, shooting 7-of-13 from the field.

The defense picked up in the second half as the Buckeyes were held to 31 points. They gained an advantage from three-point range. Rutgers shot just 6-for-24 from deep while Ohio State knocked down 11 threes.

Rebounding was expected to be an issue for the Scarlet Knights but they out rebounded the Buckeyes 39-35 and 13-8 on the offensive end of the floor. Aundre Hyatt was the lone player of the night to log double-digit rebounds, finishing with 10.

Rutgers will be back in action on Saturday afternoon to take on Iowa in Iowa City.

Coming off its ugliest performance of the season, Rutgers bounced back and battled a conference opponent on the road. Early in the Big Ten season, we do not know what the future holds but what we do know is that Steve Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights are going to show up and fight night in and night out.