Ohio State Secures First Conference Road Victory, Cruising Past #15 Rutgers

Ohio State, who hadn’t played in nearly a week after having their game against Penn State cancelled, showed very little rust, building a big lead and holding on late to defeat 15th ranked Rutgers 79-68. Playing their first game without captain C.J. Walker, out indefinitely with a torn ligament in his thumb, Ohio State didn’t miss a beat dominating Rutgers from the outset, trailing in the game for only a little over a minute midway through the first half. With the win, Ohio State evened their conference record at 3-3 and moved to 9-3 overall. With the loss, Rutgers dropped to 7-4 and 3-4 in Big Ten play. Four Buckeyes scored in double figures, paced by Duane Washington’s 17, including 4 of 8 from downtown. E.J. Liddell added 15 and 6 rebounds and Kyle Young added 13 and 5 rebounds. Justice Sueing contributed with his first double double as a Buckeye, scoring 12 to go along with 10 boards. The Buckeyes dominated the glass for the second straight matchup, out rebounding the Scarlet Knights 43-27 and was the aggressor for the majority of the afternoon leading to the win.

It took 2 minutes for either team to get on the board, but once a Jimmy Sotos 3 tickled the twine, the floodgates opened for both teams. Back-to-back EJ Liddell corner jumpers, one from either side, put Ohio State up 7-4. After a Rutgers bucket cut the lead to one, Duane Washington Jr created offense himself with a little hesitation move and got to the glass for a lay in to give the Buckeyes a 9-6 lead. After Rutgers answered again, Justice Sueing found Kyle Young at the block for a lay in, Sueing’s third assist of the game and Ohio State led by three. After a Rutgers miss, Young scored again on the next possession with a jump hook to put the Buckeyes up 13-8. Ron Harper Jr of Rutgers drilled a three to cut the lead to two but Sotos hit his second three of the game to answer and give Ohio State a 16-11 lead at the first media timeout with 13:31 to go in the first half. After a Rutgers hoop cut it to three, Zed Key scored on a rebound and put back to put Ohio State back up 5 but Rutgers would answer with a 10-0 run to give the Scarlet Knights their first lead, on top of Ohio State 23-18. A pair of Liddell free throws ended the run and cut into the lead briefly before Rutgers drilled a three to go up six. The Buckeyes answered, hitting back to back three’s from Liddell and Washington, the latter off excellent ball movement, to tie the score at 26. Liddell split a pair of free throws to put the Buckeyes back on top and on the next Rutgers possession, Liddell blocked a shot at the top into the hands of Washington, who found Liddell streaking down the floor for a dunk and Ohio State led by three. After a Rutgers miss, Washington drilled a three from the left point to give Ohio State a 12-0 run and Rutgers wanted to talk about it, calling timeout with just under five minutes to go in the half. A Liddell free throw upped the run to 13-0 and had Ohio State up 7 before Rutgers finally got back on the board. A pair of Key free throws put the Buckeyes back up 7 and could have been more if not for a flurry of missed free throw opportunities. Two more Key free throws gave Ohio State a 9-point bulge and after a Rutgers bucket cut the lead to 7, Sueing buried a 12 foot jumper fading to his right to put the Buckeyes back up 9. After a Rutgers miss and the shot clock running down, Washington buried a three from the top of the key and Ohio State led by 12, which would be how the half would end, and at the end of the first 20 minutes, Ohio State led Rutgers 42-30 and on a 22-4 run over the last 7:30 of the half. The Buckeyes were led in the first half by E.J. Liddell’s 13 and Duane Washington Jr.’s 11 and had doubled up Rutgers on the glass to the tune of 22-11, mirroring the dominance on the glass they enjoyed in the first matchup between the schools. The Buckeyes held Rutgers to just under 42% shooting, while hitting on 53.8% of their shot attempts, including 6 of 12 from long range.

The Buckeyes started the second half like they ended the first, scoring the first five, a turnaround fade away on the baseline from Liddell followed by a wide-open triple from Kyle Young put Ohio State up 17. Rutgers got a hoop to stem the tide briefly before a Young jump hook and a Washington three forced Rutgers to call timeout with 15:56 to go and Ohio State leading 52-32. A Harper jumper cut the lead to 18 but Young put Ohio State back up 20, barging to the bucket and scoring through contact. A steal on the other end led to Washington breaking out and being fouled as he went for a dunk. After Washington split a pair of free throws, Ohio State extended the lead to 21 with 14:30 left to play and Ohio State on a 13-4 second half scoring run and a 35-8 overall run to take command of the game. The Scarlet Knights wouldn’t go away however and a 7-2 Rutgers run cut the lead back to 16 at the under 12 minute media timeout but Ohio State was still firmly in control as the Knights were getting a little chippy. The Buckeyes would proceed to go on a 8-3 run, including a pair of triples from Justin Ahrens and Seth Towns to go back up 21 with 8 minutes remaining. Rutgers would come storming back, going on a 14-2 run forcing Ohio State to call timeout with 3:50 to go and having their lead cut to 10 as Ohio State had gone cold, hitting just 1 of their last 8 shot attempts and Sotos leaving the floor with a potential separated shoulder. Out of the timeout, the Buckeyes went to work, Liddell found Young for a dunk and on the next possession, Washington got to the rim for a lay in off of dribble drive penetration to put the Buckeyes back up 14. Rutgers got a bucket to answer and a quick timeout with 2:20 to go, Ohio State led 71-59. A Justice Sueing free throw extended the lead to 13 but Rutgers cut the lead to 11. 2 more Sueing free throws extended the lead back to 13. Back came Rutgers. A triple cut the lead to 10 and a Buckeye turnover in the backcourt turned into a Rutgers bucket and with a minute to go, Ohio State led by just 8. Another pair of Sueing free throws fell and after a Rutgers miss, Jallow was fouled and he calmly knocked down both to give Ohio State a 12 point lead and time running out on the Scarlet Knights. A Rutgers uncontested lay up cut the lead to 10 but with just 15 seconds left. Sueing split a pair of free throws to complete the scoring in a wild ending to an outstanding performance overall for the Buckeyes.

We’ve said it before, basketball is a game of matchups, and clearly this is one that favors the Buckeyes, matching up well with the quick Rutgers perimeter players and the more physical of the two in the paint. Ohio State played as well as they have all year for around 37 minutes of the ball game before a late Rutgers flurry made it a little interesting down the stretch. The Rutgers run coincided with what looked to be a somewhat serious injury to Buckeye point guard Jimmy Sotos, who filled the void very well in Walker’s absence, but left with a shoulder injury late in the ballgame. If he is out for any significant period of time, Ohio State will be without their top two ball handlers and will need to adjust on the fly. This could put some added pressure on Meechie Johnson, the early enrollee, who saw his first action of the season, playing about 5 minutes in this game without scoring.

Ohio State will take the floor again on Wednesday evening back home at the Schott, hosting Northwestern at 7pm and airing on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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