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No. 16 Ohio State falls on the road to Rutgers, 64-61

The Buckeyes struggled against the zone, and couldn’t overcome the Scarlet Knights in the waning minutes of the second half.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes stumbled again on Wednesday night, falling to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a nailbiter, 64-61. Playing on the road, the scarlet and gray struggled against the zone, and got themselves into an 11-point deficit in the early going. While they did emerge from the deficit, they couldn’t handle the Scarlet Knights down the stretch. Led by scorers Geo Baker and Montez Mathis, Rutgers secured their first win of the season in conference play. For Ohio State, they fall to 12-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play.

Three Buckeyes reached double-figure scoring, with Kaleb Wesson leading the team with 18 points. Additionally, Wesson led the rebounding efforts for OSU as well, racking up seven. Luther Muhammad was second on the team with 13 points and six rebounds, and C.J. Jackson totalled 10 points. For Jackson, it was a rough night from beyond the arc, as the guard went 2-of-8 from three-point range; he ended the night on 4-of-12 shooting overall.

Collectively, OSU was 23-of-57 from the floor, while Rutgers was slightly better (percentage wise) at 22-of-53. Both teams struggled with possession, combining for 23 turnovers. Ohio State had 13 of them, including a costly thrown-away ball in the final minutes of the game. Rutgers converted those turnovers into 18 points, while Ohio State churned in 12 points from Scarlet Knight miscues.

Rutgers dominated on blocks for the game, out gaining the visitors 6-0. All facets of play contributed to Steve Pikiell’s squad getting the win over No. 16 Ohio State. For the first time in the Pikiell era, Rutgers secured a win over a ranked Big Ten opponent.

Let’s take a look at how this one went down.

After a couple minutes of scoreless basketball, the Buckeyes got their first points via a goaltend. Ohio State locked Rutgers’ offense down in the early going; they forced the Knights to work inside, instead of from three-point range. However, there was a consequence of the tight defense. Before three minutes of basketball, Kaleb Wesson had to sit down after committing two fouls in near back-to-back fashion.

The other Wesson brother, Andre, was able to work the ball inside for the Bucks’ first true basket of the game. With Rutgers beginning the game on 0-for-4 shooting, OSU had an early 4-0 lead. With a little under 16 minutes left in the first half, Rutgers’ Montez Mathis hit a runner in the lane for two points—and got a free throw opportunity.

After the made freebie, Ron Harper Jr. knocked down an open three in the corner to give the Scarlet Knights their first lead of the game, 6-4. C.J. Jackson would connect OSU’s first made three-pointer of the night, bringing the Buckeyes within one, 7-8.

Clanking shots and turnovers were a theme for the first seven minutes of action. As the Knights still held a one-point lead, their star forward Eugene Omoruyi went up for a defensive rebound, and fell awkwardly on his left ankle. An injury timeout was taken, as the medical team attended to Omoruyi. After a few minutes, Omoruyi got up from the hardwood and walked gingerly to the locker room with assistance.

Without their leader, the home squad still put pressure on OSU. On the following possession, the Buckeyes used up all but a few seconds on the shot clock, before throwing the ball away. It was their fifth turnover of the game—and not even 10 minutes of play had been completed.

Geo Baker would then connect on a second three, as well as a midrange fade away. His eight points in the early going pushed the Scarlet Knights to an 18-9 lead. However, Luther Muhammad quickly knocked down a three of his own to bring OSU within six.

Rutgers’ zone defense gave Ohio State problems, but the scarlet and gray found ways to avoid it. A fake drive inside by Keyshawn Woods led to a kick-out to Muhammad, who nailed another open three. At the under-8 minute media timeout, the Buckeyes were within four points of the Scarlet Knights, 19-15.

After the media timeout, both teams traded baskets. The Buckeyes’ basket, though, was nice; Woods connected with Kyle Young on an alley-oop—breaking the zone defense for a highlight worthy play.

With a little momentum, the Buckeyes, unfortunately, quickly lost it. Woods had a three-pointer blocked out of bounds. On the ensuing inbound, the Bucks got trapped—and had the ball tipped and stolen away. In transition, Harper hit a layup in traffic and got an and-1. He made his free throw, and after a missed three by OSU’s Musa Jallow, the Scarlet Knights went down again and hit an alley-oop of their own. A timeout was taken, as the Buckeyes trailed 28-17 with 5:36 remaining before halftime.

Shaquille Doorson hit a left-hand hook to get the crowd going, but OSU got an immediate shot to fall courtesy of Muhammad. After a battle for a loose ball, Duane Washington was able to connect on a three to bring the Buckeyes within a half dozen, 30-24.

Back from another break, the Buckeyes were back to hitting threes. This time, Jackson made one from downtown to make it a three point game. Rutgers kept their lead above water as Baker went to the line for a pair of free throws after being fouled by Young. He would split the shots.

Ohio State got aggressive on offense—attempting to work the ball inside the paint. After passing around the perimeter, Andre Wesson got the handle and drove to the basket. He drew a foul on the shot. Like Baker, Andre connected on just 1-of-2 shots from the charity stripe. With under 10 seconds remaining before the end of the half, Washington hit a deep two off a step-back to bring the Buckeyes within one, 31-30.

The Buckeyes closed out the half on an 11-3 run, thanks to 4-of-6 shooting from the field. For the half, OSU shot 12-of-28 from the floor, while Rutgers shot 10-of-27. Turnovers were a big problem for both teams. Ohio State gave the ball away nine times, while the Scarlet Knights committed six turnovers in the first 20 minutes of basketball.

Muhammad led the Buckeye scorers with eight points, while Kaleb Wesson led the rebounding front with four.

Speaking of Kaleb Wesson, he scored the first basket of the second half. That gave the Buckeyes the lead at 32-31. Both teams traded blows in the early stages of the half, with Kaleb Wesson carrying the team. Wesson scored 10-straight points for OSU, and was a very big reason for the Buckeyes’ 40-38 lead at the under-16 minute media timeout.

But, Wesson (and the rest of the Bucks) went cold. Rutgers, on the other hand, got hot. A 10-0 run was compiled by the Scarlet Knights, thanks to Mathis, Caleb McConnell and Shaq Carter. Coming off another timeout with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation, Muhammad hit a three-pointer. That shot broke a four-minute scoring slump from the Buckeyes, and got them within five.

Even though Kaleb Wesson hit free throws and dunks, the Scarlet Knights made three-pointers and free throws of their own to hold their lead. At the under-8 minute timeout, the No. 16-ranked Buckeyes still trailed, 55-49, but were still clawing for possessions and points.

Down five, Kaleb Wesson collected his third foul of the game with 6:15 left in the second half. With that, Rutgers tried to work down low in the post for layups and contested shots. Even though they missed shots, they drew contact—and fouls. Doorson split a pair of free throws, which was countered by a Jackson layup.

Following a Woods three-pointer, Kaleb Wesson tailed his fourth foul of the game. Carter would split his freebies, pushing the Rutgers lead to 58-54. Ohio State would also get a point from the free throw line before the under-4 media timeout.

Of all the times to get warm from the field, the Buckeyes picked the right time. Layups by Muhammad and Jackson gave OSU the lead at 61-58 with 2:37 remaining. Rutgers utilized a timeout to breakup the run and regroup.

Rutgers would get within one as Mathis got the bounce on a layup. Chris Holtmann would then regather the team with a timeout. The timeout did more harm than good, as Andre Wesson threw the ball away; his intent was to deliver the pass to Muhammad. After the turnover, Mathis drove the lane for another basket. Rutgers had the lead at 62-61 with little over a minute left.

Muhammad’s rebuttal (and game leading) shot rimmed out, and was rebounded by the Scarlet Knights. The final blow came with 10.5 seconds remaining, as Baker, who was held scoreless for most of the second half, knocked down a deep two. Holtmann burned another timeout to draw up one last play, trailing 64-61.

Ohio State had a chance to tie the game with an open three from Muhammad in the far corner, but it clanked off the front of the rim.

Up next for Ohio State will be Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 12. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET, with the game taking place at Carver Hawkeye Arena. BTN will broadcast the contest.