The Ohio State Buckeyes got back to their winning ways on Senior Night, as they snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 79-52.
With it being the final home game of the 2017-18 season, four student-athletes (Andrew Dakich, Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop) were recognized prior to the game tipping off.
In front of 15,620, the Buckeyes got the win behind strong efforts on the scoring front from C.J. Jackson, Williams and Kaleb Wesson.
Jackson, who scored only two points in the first half, had an electric second half, scoring 16. Jackson made his first five shots in the second half, and ended the game with 18 points with two rebounds.
Williams led the team in three-point makes with three, and ended the game with 13 points and three rebounds. As a team, the Buckeyes made eight shots from beyond the arc.
Wesson, a freshman, continues to impress. After leaving the game early with an apparent ankle injury, the Westerville, Ohio native ended the game with 14 points and five boards.
Throughout the season, Tate and Bates-Diop were the main scorers for the Scarlet and Gray; on Tuesday night, however, they were held in check. Tate put up nine points, while KBD, who is known to get double-doubles, was held to six points and eight rebounds.
By the time the final horn sounded, Ohio State shot 59 percent from the field, knocking down 33 of their 56 shots. Rutgers shot 41 percent, making 22 of 54 shots. Rebounding kept the Scarlet Knights in the game for the first half—and was a reason for their early comeback—but in the second half, the Buckeyes outrebounded the visitors, and ended the game with a 36-25 advantage in that category.
Ohio State limited second-chance opportunities, which helped in getting the win at home on Senior Night.
Here’s how this one went down.
Rutgers won the opening tip, and was pressed getting into the paint. With nobody open down low, Shaquille Doorson passed the ball to Eugene Omoruyi at around the free-throw line, who then quickly got the shot off and banked it in.
The visitors may have scored the first points, but the Buckeyes were about to set the record straight. After Kaleb Wesson netted a free throw, Andrew Dakich drove into the lane and put up the Scarlet and Gray’s first field goal of the night. A missed Rutgers three-ball by Issa Thiam led to a KBD rebound and a three-pointer being made by Kam Williams. On the next possession, Williams picked the ball away from Thiam, and knocked down an open three, giving the Bucks a 9-4 lead at the under-16 minute media timeout.
A missed three-pointer and a blocked layup compounded problems for the Rutgers offense. They went over 2:30 without a point, as OSU put together a 10-0 run. A couple of buckets by the Scarlet Knights, including a dunk from Corey Sanders after a bobbled rebound from the Bucks, gave the visitors a little life on the road. However, turnovers and missed shots—which were of quality—made sure the Buckeyes lead was safe in the first eight minutes.
The Buckeyes rebuttal to the Sanders dunk was a Williams jumper, which was good. After the make, Micah Potter got in on the scoring by getting a dunk of his own, as KBD found room from a Rutgers’ screen to find an open Potter on the baseline. Going into the next media timeout at the 10:47 mark, the home team had themselves a 17-9 lead.
After the break, OSU continued their quest to push out to a double-digit lead. After a missed wide-open long-ball in the corner by Rutgers’ Matt Bullock, Williams scooped up a defensive rebound before handing the ball to Tate, who finished with a layup. The Buckeyes pulled out to a 21-11 lead at the under-8 media timeout, and shot a (very) nice 69 percent from the field. On the other side of the floor, Rutgers was making 29 percent of their shots. That number would drop right after the timeout, as Omoruyi missed a long two-pointer, clanking it off the back iron.
From there, things got boomin’ for OSU. Tate and Wesson made inside shots, as Williams connected on a three-pointer. All of this was punctuated with a Dakich-to-KBD alley-oop to put the Buckeyes up 30-11. Rutgers, though, would answer quickly. A 10-0 run was put together in less than two minutes, bringing them within nine. After Sanders made the shot to set the run at 10, Wesson left the game after appearing to get his ankle rolled—leading to Potter checking in for him.
Rutgers pulled within seven, 30-23, thanks to a 5-for-5 shooting streak. An air-balled three by Dakich as the shot clock expired led to the visitors having a chance to get their run even higher, however, C.J. Jackson was able to break the run on the next possession with a runner that looked like it might have been an alley-oop attempt that went in on its won.
The Scarlet Knights, who are 1-33 in their last 34 Big Ten road games, were making a serious push to close out the half. By the time the halftime horn sounded, Rutgers was only down five, 32-27, thanks to a 16-2 run, which included makes on 7-of-8 shots; Ohio State during this run was having issues on all sides of the floor. The Buckeyes were cold from the field, making one of their last eight field goals, and went the final 2:55 without a point.
Rutgers improved their shooting mark to 43 percent at the break, while Ohio State dropped down to 52 percent. From downtown, OSU was 3-of 10; Rutgers was just one of six. The Rutgers comeback was due in large part to getting the ball to their scorers, Sanders and Thiam, and getting offensive rebounds. Sanders led the team with eight points, while Thiam had six. On the rebounding front, Rutgers led 17-15, and held a 5-3 advantage on offensive boards.
Bates-Diop was held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting, while Williams led the team with 11 points on a 3-of-5 mark from beyond the arc. At one point, OSU had a 19-point lead. Now, it had nearly evaporated.
In the second half, the Buckeyes shook off the ice, and began to heat back up from the field. Wesson, who returned from the earlier injury, made an old-fashioned three-point play, and Jackson put home a jumper and a three-ball. Holtmann took a timeout at the 15:21 mark of the half, and had his Buckeyes back up double digits, 40-29.
After the OSU timeout, Jackson went with a baseline runner to collect two more points. On the next possession, Tate put home a layup after the Bucks got an inbound from under the basket. Sanders whiffed on a point-blank shot, leading to Jackson hitting another runner on the other end of the floor. Those makes put together a 6-0 Buckeye run, which was juxtaposed with a scoring drought by Rutgers that lasted over 5:15.
The slump doomed the Scarlet Knights, as the Buckeyes pulled away for good. OSU made the most out of their inside opportunities, and from beyond the arc, Wesson and Tate rattled home shots to get the home team a 66-43 lead with under five minutes left to play.
As the time winded down, Holtmann subbed out Tate, Williams and KBD, which led to a standing ovation in the stands. Dakich also had his moment, as he was subbed in with 3:19 remaining in the game.
Michigan State holds court as the No. 1 team in the conference, thus giving them the No. 1-seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week, if their lead holds up. With the win on Tuesday night, Ohio State keeps pace just behind the Spartans, and are holding off the Purdue Boilermakers for the No. 2-seed.
Ohio State’s regular season finale takes place on Friday night against Indiana. The Buckeyes will travel to Bloomington, Ind., for an 8 p.m. ET tipoff. FS1 will broadcast the game.