The Buckeyes look to rebound from Wednesday night's 60-58 loss to Purdue in West Lafayette when they hit the road again and travel to Piscataway, New Jersey for the first time ever to take on Rutgers. For the second game in a row, Ohio State will be without suspended sophomore Marc Loving. In the loss to Purdue, Ohio State missed the offensive production of Loving, as only two Buckeyes were able to reach double figures in the scoring sheet.
D'Angelo Russell was once again the bright spot for Ohio State, registering his 10th game of the season where he scored at least 20 points. The 20 points Russell scored against the Boilermakers marked the 22nd time of Ohio State's 23 games this year where Russell reached double figures in scoring. Along with Russell, Amir Williams was the only other Buckeye to score at least 10 points and it was Williams' highest scoring output since he scored 10 points in the win against Michigan on January 13th.
The biggest difference in the loss to Purdue was the number of times the Boilermakers were able to get to the foul line. Ohio State only shot nine free throws in the game, while Purdue shot 27 free throws, with 19 of those attempts being made. Raphael Davis got to the free throw line 10 times in the game, making eight of those attempts on his way to scoring a team-high 20 points for Purdue in he victory.
Rutgers comes into the matchup with Ohio State trying to snap a seven-game losing streak. The last victory Eddie Jordan's team registered was nearly a month ago when they pulled the upset of Wisconsin in Piscataway. The loss is the only one the Badgers have suffered this year in conference play. The Scarlet Knights return home after playing their last two games on the road, losing to Indiana last Saturday, followed by a loss to Illinois on Tuesday night in Champaign.
While Rutgers may be struggling in their first year in the Big Ten, Ohio State can't take the Scarlet Knights lightly, especially with how tough it is to win on the road in the Big Ten. Senior Myles Mack leads Rutgers in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game but also contributes in other areas, as he is averaging over four assists and rebounds per game. Along with Mack, fellow senior Kadeem Jack is the only other Rutgers player averaging double figures in scoring this year, putting up 13.4 points per game
What the Scarlet Knights are hoping to avoid in this matchup is getting in a up-tempo battle with the Buckeyes. One of the issues this year for Rutgers has been scoring, as they are only averaging 58.9 points per game compared to the 79.0 points per game that Ohio State is averaging. Rutgers has had trouble with their shooting this year, only hitting 39.7% of their field goal attempts. Since beating Sacred Heart 79-54 on December 23rd, the only time Rutgers has eclipsed the 70-point mark was on January 11th when they lost 89-80 at Minnesota.
Numbers to know:
He hasn't been racking up assists quite as frequently as he did to begin the season, but Shannon Scott only needs eight assists to pass Curtis Wilson for fourth on Ohio State's all-time assists list. So far during his Ohio State career Scott is responsible for 468 assists. Currently Scott is first in the Big Ten with a 6.4 assists per game average. The last time Scott dished out at least eight assists in a game was in the 71-52 win over Michigan on January 13th.
in all six of Ohio State losses this year they have trailed at halftime. On Wednesday night against Purdue, the Buckeyes went into the halftime break trailing 27-26 and weren't able to dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves in the second half. The only game this season Ohio State was able to win after trailing at half was on January 3rd against Illinois, where after trailing 37-36 at halftime, the Buckeyes pulled away to a 77-61 win in Columbus. Getting out to a first half lead is critical for the Buckeyes since Rutgers has had their own struggles while trailing at halftime, posting a 2-12 record when falling behind after the first 20 minutes.
The number of games so far this season where Ohio State have recorded 10 or more steals, which marks the third-highest total for the Buckeyes in a season during the Thad Matta Era. Ohio State recorded 10 or more steals in 11 games in 2012, and in 10 games in 2014.The thievery the Buckeyes can display at times during the season is a major reason why Ohio State ranks first in the Big Ten with a +5.0 turnover margin.
Cast of characters:
It feels like the scintillating freshman has a permanent spot in the cast of characters in the LGHL game previews, but it is justified since he is what makes this Ohio State team tick. Even when the Buckeyes were struggling on Wednesday night, he almost engineered a comeback against the Boilermakers. Russell is second in the Big Ten in scoring, third in three-point percentage, and third in assists. With Marc Loving out again for the Buckeyes, Russell will again have to shoulder much of the load offensively, not only with his scoring but also with his exceptional distribution skills.
Since playing only three minutes against Northwestern, followed by not playing at all against Indiana, Williams has had a couple of good performances off the bench for the Buckeyes. In 12 minutes against Maryland the senior scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds. Wednesday night saw Williams tasked with trying to matchup with Purdue's A.J. Hammons and Williams was able to hold his own, registering 10 points in 20 minutes. With the skills Kadeem Jack possesses for the Scarlet Knights on the inside, Ohio State will need another strong performance from Williams.
The senior guard is doing his best to try and rewrite the Rutgers record books during his time in Piscataway. Sunday marks the 100th career start for Mack and during that time he has worked his way to second in Rutgers history in steals, fourth in assists and three-pointers, and ninth in points. The Buckeyes will have to keep close tabs on Mack throughout the game because he is capable of spurring Rutgers onto a win. Six times this year Mack has registered 20 points or more.
While Myles Mack is dangerous on the outside for Rutgers, Kadeem Jack is capable of taking over on the inside for the Scarlet Knights. Jack has hit double figures in scoring in the last six games and his prowess on the glass has allowed him to register two double-doubles so far this season. Currently Jack is the second leading rebounder on this Rutgers team, averaging 6.4 rebounds per game. The Buckeyes can't allow Jack to get going like he did against Wisconsin, where Jack scored 20 points in the upset win over the Badgers.