It feels like the regular season just started the other day, but Senior Night is upon us, as the Ohio State Buckeyes will wrap up their home schedule tonight against Rutgers. Not only will seniors Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Andrew Dakich be honored prior to the game, but redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop will also be recognized before what could be his final home game in the scarlet and gray.
After two straight losses, Ohio State will try and send the seniors out on a winning note in their final home game. Following tough losses on the road to Penn State and Michigan over the past week, a home game against a struggling Rutgers squad could be just what the doctor ordered.
With the losses to Penn State and Michigan, Ohio State has fallen out of first place in the Big Ten, and faces an uphill climb to earn a share of the regular season conference championship. Not only does Ohio State have to defeat Rutgers tonight and Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., on Friday night, but they also will need Michigan State to slip up against either Illinois or Wisconsin for the Buckeyes to earn a share of the Big Ten title.
On Sunday, Ohio State hung with Michigan for most of the game, but the Buckeyes didn’t quite have the horses in the end to earn a regular season sweep of the Wolverines. Ohio State went into halftime down 33-28, and were within a bucket of Michigan a few times in the second half, but the Buckeyes couldn’t quite get over the hump to either tie the Wolverines or take the lead. Jae’Sean Tate finished with a team-high 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Keita Bates-Diop added 17 points despite hitting just five of his 17 field goal attempts.
The Buckeyes come into this game with a little bit of doubt after losing their last two games, but a game against a struggling Rutgers team could help to restore some of Ohio State’s confidence as they finish up the regular season on Friday night, and start the Big Ten Tournament next week. Ohio State already had little trouble taking care of Rutgers in their first matchup of the season, defeating the Scarlet Knights 68-46 last month in East Piscataway.
Over the last two games, it looks like Ohio State has some tired legs as the regular season is drawing to a close. Chris Holtmann took over a team that was decimated by transfers, leaving the Buckeyes little to work with off the bench. Holtmann was able to bring in Andrew Dakich, Kyle Young, and Musa Jallow to fill some of those holes, and they have all hand big moments during the year. The three-game suspension of Kam Williams depleted the bench even more, and even though Williams has been available for the last two games, Ohio State hasn’t quite looked like the same team. With some extra time off following the Big Ten Tournament, hopefully the Buckeyes are able to recharge their batteries before the NCAA Tournament begins.
Rutgers has lost eight of their last nine games, with the only win during that span coming in overtime at home last week against Northwestern. In their last game, the Scarlet Knights saw little go right in a 61-51 loss to Maryland on Saturday. The Terrapins built up a 31-19 halftime lead and Rutgers wasn’t able to climb their way back into the game. Eugene Omoruyi was the only Rutgers player to reach double figures, scoring 11 points in the loss. Leading scorer Corey Sanders struggled mightily, hitting just three of his 14 shots from the field, and finishing with six points.
In their meeting with Ohio State last month, Rutgers was dreadful from the field, shooting just 28.8 percent. DeShawn Freeman was the biggest bricklayer on the floor for the Scarlet Knights, missing all but one of his 12 field goal attempts. Geo Baker was Rutgers’ leading scorer in the game with 14 points. Since joining the Big Ten, Rutgers still hasn’t defeated Ohio State in the regular season, with the only win for the Scarlet Knights over the Buckeyes coming in the opening round of last year’s Big Ten Tournament.
Numbers to know
With his first rebound against Michigan on Sunday, Jae’Sean Tate broke a tie with John Havlicek to move into the 10th spot on Ohio State’s all-time rebounding list. Tate finished the game with 15 rebounds, giving him 735 boards in his Ohio State career. The senior now has his eyes set on moving higher up the list, with Ken Johnson currently sitting in ninth place with 739 career rebounds.
Ohio State was horrible from the foul line on Sunday afternoon, hitting just nine of the 19 free throws they attempted. The 47.4 percent the Buckeyes shot from the line was Ohio State’s worst showing of the season from the charity stripe. The only other game in which Ohio State failed to reach 60 percent from the foul line came in the loss to Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, where the Buckeyes hit just eight of their 16 foul shots.
In four years as a member of the Big Ten, Rutgers has posted just a 1-34 record on the road against conference foes. The only win for the Scarlet Knights on the road came last season, when Rutgers upended Penn State 70-68 in State College. The Scarlet Knights have lost both trips they have made to Columbus since joining the Big Ten.
Cast of characters
The senior will get some well-deserved acknowledgement prior to his final home game in the scarlet and gray. With his 20 points against Michigan, Tate was able to pass David Lighty on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list, and now currently sits in 21st place with 1,462 career points. With 24 more points, Tate will tie Jerry Francis for 20th all-time in Ohio State history. Tonight’s game will mark Tate’s 125th appearance for Ohio State and his 106th career start.
Even though he still has another year of eligibility left, it’s like we are seeing Keita Bates-Diop’s last game in an Ohio State uniform tonight. The redshirt junior has put together an outstanding season, as he is averaging 19.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. Last month against Rutgers, Bates-Diop scored a team-high 20 points, and added nine rebounds and five blocks. With 14 more points Bates-Diop will tie Lawrence Funderburk for 38th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list.
The junior guard has been up-and-down since the beginning of the month, with two games where he reached 30 points, and two others where he failed to reach double figures. In a two-point loss to Purdue two weeks ago, Sanders scored 31 points, and also scored 30 points in an overtime win over Northwestern. In the games where he failed to reach double figures against Indiana and Maryland, Sanders shot a combined 4-25 from the field. Rutgers is going to need their leading scorer at the top of his game if they want to put a scare into the Buckeyes.
Over the last three games, the most consistent Rutgers player has been the Ontario native. After missing games against Purdue and Indiana, the sophomore has scored at least eight points in each of the last three games, registering 11 points in losses to Nebraska and Maryland. Prior to his 11 point output against Nebraska, Omoruyi hadn’t reached double figures in scoring since he scored 10 points in a mid-December loss to Seton Hall.
How to watch:
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
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