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The Fastbreak: 3 quick thoughts from Ohio State’s redemption over Rutgers

Kaleb Wesson dropped 27 points as the Buckeyes begin the month with a win

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

January was a bad month for the Ohio State Buckeyes on the basketball front. Going 1-6 didn’t help the NCAA Tournament résumé, so things had to be turned around in February.

In game numero uno of the month, Chris Holtmann and his squad got a big win against Rutgers, 76-62, at home. Value City Arena witnessed a monster game from Kaleb Wesson, and the team looked about as cohesive on offense and defense as it has all year.

Ohio State is now 14-7, and have Penn State coming into town this week. But, before we begin previewing the Nittany Lions, let’s take a quick look at the after-action report from the Buckeyes-Scarlet Knights battle, and focus on three key things learned.

1. Kaleb’s big half

After fouling out (and getting a technical) against Michigan, Kaleb Wesson came back with a vengeance against the Scarlet Knights. He opened up the game going 6-for-6, including two shots from downtown. Kaleb had the team’s first 12 points — sparking an 11-0 that got OSU out of an early deficit.

The younger Wesson has showed improvements as each game progresses. Foul trouble hampered him during the Buckeyes’ five-game losing streak. In the first eight minutes against Rutgers, he had zero fouls; at the end of the first half, he still had zero fouls.

Wesson had 21 points at the break, and ended the game with 27. Ohio State had a comfortable lead in the second half — even though Rutgers had a couple of moments where they closed in on the Bucks’ lead.

Only two fouls were committed by Kaleb by the final whistle, which is very good. If he can consistently put up 15-20 point games while only getting whistled three times, then OSU will be in a very good place for their remaining contests.

2. Holding on to the rock

Turnovers were the bugaboo in January. Careless possessions are what caused the Rutgers upset over Ohio State in January. Saturday was very different, as the Buckeyes had zero turnovers in the first half, and went nearly 23 minutes without their first turnover of the game. In total, they had six TOs in the second half — but that was to be expected. Rutgers played more frantic and took more risks when on defense, and were rewarded for it.

Down the stretch, OSU wasn’t nonchalant with the rock; they took care of it. Multiple times in the second half, Rutgers got the deficit within 10. But, solid shooting pushed the Bucks to victory. For example: Rutgers got within six to start the half, but a C.J. Jackson three pushed the home team’s lead to nine; midway through the half, RU got within eight on two separate occasions, but Jackson and Kaleb had quality scoring opportunities.

Penn State entered the weekend without a Big Ten win this season. If OSU doesn’t want to become the first B1G win for the Nittany Lions, they have to be careful with the ball. The Lions have nothing to lose, and will play like that. The Buckeyes can’t fall into that same trap. Especially the freshman like Luther Muhammad; they can’t try to do too much.

If Ohio State avoids that, then they’ll be golden Thursday night versus Penn State.

3. Scoring threats

Kaleb led the team with 27 points. That was nearly a career-high, but that got me thinking: what if the younger Wesson didn’t have a breakout game? Would the Bucks still win?

Me thinks they would have — but it would’ve been a lot closer.

Fortunately for OSU, three others eclipsed the 10-point plateau. Kewyshawn Woods had 11, Muhammad had 12, and Jackson pulled up a whopping 20. These are the kind of performances that Holtmann needs from his team in the big games down the line.

Andre Wesson only had five points, and Musa Jallow, who got the start, was held scoreless. But because others were able to pick up the slack, things kinda worked out.

Ohio State should be able to glide past Penn State, but against Indiana and Michigan State, they will need to have starters and role players show up on the scoring end. Kaleb can’t drop 25-plus a game, and Jackson shouldn’t be expected to score 20 with four three-pointers each time out. Andre, Musa, Luther and Duane Washington Jr. are just some of the guys that need produce when they get on the floor.

It’s great that Kaleb, C.J. and Luther combined for 59, but if Kaleb gets caught in foul trouble or goes cold, and Jackson gets slowed by defenses, will OSU have any answer to get points?