The No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes hoops squad was back in action Wednesday night for a huge showdown with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In a game that was wildly back and forth and a strong defensive showing by both teams, Rutgers (14-9, 8-5) took the victory over the Buckeyes (14-6, 7-4) in a 66-64 final after a late surge from the Scarlet Knights.
In a game that everyone knew would be gritty and tough fought as all game are at the RAC (now known as Jersey Mikes Arena, but nobody calls it that), Rutgers came in hot off a 84-63 win over Michigan State after falling to Northwestern in overtime. They were looking to get their first back-to-back wins over ranked opponents since 2008.
Ohio State was coming off one of their best 40 minute performances of the season, defeating Maryland 82-67 in a game that was never really close. Also, two games ago, the Buckeyes stormed back from down 20 in the second half at Purdue and lost on a Jaden Ivey buzzer beater. The Buckeyes scored an unbelievable 35 points in the final 10 minutes despite ultimately coming up short.
In the two teams history against each other, Ohio State does have the upper hand on the Scarlet Knights, winning 10 of the 13 matchups and coming into this one having won four straight. They beat Rutgers in eerily similar ways last season, 80-68 and then 79-68 in their second matchup.
This game was a big one for the Big Ten standings for the Buckeyes and the Scarlet Knights, as Ohio State sits in fourth place with a three way tie at the top of the conference at 10-3 between Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin. Ohio State has only three losses as well, but just seven wins coming into this one since they have had some games rescheduled. Never fear, however, as it will even out by the end of the season.
What things look like after last night's big night: pic.twitter.com/202d3KTuGU— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 9, 2022
The Scarlet Knights came into Wednesday night led by Ron Harper Jr. (15.9 PPG, 6.2 REB) and Geo Baker (11.6 PPG). Rutgers point guard Paul Mulcahy is playing the best basketball of his career, and Cliff Omoruyi averages 11.4 points and eight rebounds per game.
Paul Mulcahy in Rutgers' last three games: 18.7 PPG, 7 APG, 5.3 RPG, 3 SPG. Playing like an All-Big Ten caliber player.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 8, 2022
Ohio State visits the RAC on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes played this game without Eugene Brown for the second-straight game, as well as Justice Sueing and Seth Towns. Ohio State announced officially this week that Seth Towns would be shut down all season due to his back injury, and did not rule out the possibly of the senior grad transfer returning next season.
Rutgers has been an incredibly hot and cold team this season, particularly depending on if they are playing at the RAC or not. They are 11-2 at home, and just 2-7 on the road.
Ohio State was able to jump out to an early lead, scoring some points early and leading 11-7 at the first media timeout. Rutgers came out of the timeout and went on a quick two-minute, 7-0 run to take a 14-10 lead over the Buckeyes. Geo Baker hit two three-pointers in that stretch.
The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights went back and forth for seven ties and 10 lead changes in the first half, and Rutgers led 32-31 heading into the final 20 minutes. Baker led all scorers with 11 points, as E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham each had eight points for the Buckeyes.
In the second half, the Buckeyes took the lead right away and held onto it, but never pulled away. They held a six-point lead under the four minute timeout at 60-54. Ohio State started the second half shooting 6-for-6 from the three-point line.
With three minutes left, the Buckeyes led 64-56 but Rutgers answered with an 8-0 run in two minutes to tie the game with one minute left.
Baker drove to the hoop and was fouled with 18 seconds left with the score at 64-64, and made both foul shots. Justin Ahrens three-point attempt was blocked at the end of regulation, and that was all she wrote out of Piscataway.
Baker finished with a team-high 25 points for Rutgers. For the Buckeyes, Liddell recorded 16 points, six rebounds and four assists and Branham added 19 points. Zed Key finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Getting out strong
It was a key in this one for the Buckeyes to get out fast against the Scarlet knights. Rutgers had trailed in seven of their last eight games
Early foul trouble
Ohio State point guard Jamari Wheeler picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of this one and the Buckeyes were forced to go to the bench early. Senior captain Justin Ahrens was the Buckeye that came off the bench first. Wheeler plays the second most minutes on the team behind E.J. Liddell, averaging 29.5 minutes per game at the point guard position. He played nine minutes in the first half.
Offensive rebounding advantage
The Buckeyes have given up some offensive rebounds this season, and Rutgers is a threat in that regard. Rutgers came into the night averaging 11.1 offensive rebounds per game, which is good for fourth in the conference. Ohio State was averaging just 9.2 offensive rebounds per game, which put them 12th in the conference.
However, in this contest, Ohio State held the offensive rebounding advantage all game, finishing with a 13-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
Back and forth
It was close all the way in the first half, with seven ties and 10 lead changes and after a basket by Andre Hyatt with three seconds left in the half, Rutgers led 32-31 heading into the break.
Ohio State has only one win this season when trailing at the half, and that was against No. 1 Duke.
Ohio State came out of the half shooting lights out, starting 6-for-6 from the three-point line with three of those coming from freshman sensation Malaki Branham.
Geo Baker: good at basketball
Confirmed. Baker was the lone Scarlet Knight in double figures for most of the game, recording 11 first half points and starting 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from three point range.
With Ohio State leading 64-56 with three minutes left, Baker went on a solo 6-0 run to pull the Scarlet Knights within a basket with 1:30 left in the game.
Buckeyes dynamic duo
As a lot of recent games have gone, Liddell and Branham did a majority of the scoring for the Buckeyes. The two combined for 35 points on 13-for-25 shooting, but it wouldn’t be enough as Ohio State still came up just short.
The next team on the docket are the Michigan Wolverines, who after losing to Purdue narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of Penn State in their last time out. Ohio State will travel to Ann Arbor to take on Juwan Howards guys on Feb 12 at 6:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.