Buckeye Losing Streak Grows to 4 Games

Suddenly the Ohio State basketball team is at a major crossroads, dropping their fourth straight game, losing to Rutgers in Piscataway 68-64 in overtime. Ohio State drops to 10-7 and 2-4, while Rutgers improved to 13-5 and 5-2 in conference play. In a defensive battle in which the lead changed hands 22 times, both teams shot just 34% from the floor, but 20-27 from the line for Rutgers compared to 10-12 for Ohio State ended up being the difference. Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State with a double double 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Sean McNeil finished with 11 and  Zed Key added 11 points and 9 rebounds in the loss.  


Team defenses set the tone from the outset as the game was scoreless until the 16 minute mark when Justice Sueing had his pocket picked on the perimeter and it turned into two going the other way and at the first media timeout, Rutgers led 2-0. Rutgers upped the lead to 4 with a bucket at the rim before Ohio State finally got on the board when Zed Key scored on a jump hook from the left block. Following a Rutgers turnover, Sean McNeil’s long pass to Key running the floor finished with a dunk to tie the score. Ohio State grabbed their first lead when McNeil hit a heavily contested three from the left wing. Following a Rutgers miss, the Buckeyes got out in transition and Bruce Thornton found Tanner Holden streaking down the right side for a bucket off the glass and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State led 9-4 and was on a 9-0 run. The run continued out of the timeout as back to back triples by Holden and Brice Sensabaugh forced Rutgers to call timeout with the Buckeyes now on a 15-0 run and leading 15-4. The timeout did the Scarlet Knights well as they proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to trim the Buckeye lead to 4. McNeil ended the run, drilling a three from the right point and following a Rutgers turnover, Key was fouled at the rim and he drilled two free throws to put the Buckeyes up 9. Rutgers stopped the Buckeye burst with a triple of their own and at the under 8 timeout, Ohio State led 20-14. A Rutgers triple stopped a nearly 3 minute game scoring drought and cut the Buckeye lead to 3 and at the under 4 media timeout, Ohio State led 20-17. Holden ended the Ohio State field goal drought, drilling a 12 footer from the left wing. The Buckeyes extended their lead when Sueing split a pair of freebies with just over 2 minutes to play in the half. Rutgers scored the final three of the half and the teams hit the locker room with the Buckeyes leading the Scarlet Knights 23-20 after 20 minutes. Defense defined the first half of play as Ohio State led by as many as 11, but hit just 26% of their shot attempts overall, including 4 of 10 from three, while Rutgers shot just 29% and 3 of 13 from deep. Tanner Holden led Ohio State with 7 and Sean McNeil and Zed Key each added 6. 

The second half opened with an early technical foul on the Rutgers head coach and McNeil drilled both free throws. Rutgers cut into the lead with a bucket and a ridiculous foul call on a three point attempt put Rutgers at the line for three free throws.  All three dropped and the game was tied. The Big Ten officiating continued to be out of control, giving the ball back to Rutgers after being whistled for a foul and the Scarlet Knights took a lead with a bucket. Thornton found Sueing cutting to the rim for a lay-in to re-tie the score ending a 7-0 Rutgers run. A Rutgers tip in was followed by a Key tip in while being fouled and at the under 16 media timeout, the game was deadlocked at 29 with Key due to go to the stripe. Out of the timeout, Key buried the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three point play and put Ohio State back in front briefly. Rutgers drilled a three to reclaim the lead , but a long three from the left point by McNeil allowed Ohio State to go back in front. A pair of Rutgers free throws fell as the lead changed hands once again. Sueing got a tough turnaround jumper to fall to the left of the paint but Rutgers, back at the stripe, made both to once again go in front. Two more Rutgers freebies put the Knights up 3 but a Thornton teardrop mid-paint dropped to get Ohio State within 1. Felix Okpara gave the lead back to Ohio State with a rebound and score and at the under 12 media timeout with 11:23 to go in the game, Ohio State led 39-38. 5 straight Sensabaugh points put the Buckeyes up 6 before a Rutgers bucket stopped the Buckeye 9-0 run and cut the lead to 4. Three more Rutgers points trimmed the Buckeye lead to 1 and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State clung to a 44-43 lead with Rutgers due to go to the line after Key picked up his fourth personal foul. Both free throws dropped out of the timeout and Rutgers reclaimed the lead thanks to a 7-0 run. The Buckeyes ended the run as Sueing scored near the rim, but Rutgers answered with two on their end to go back in front. The Buckeyes once again answered as Thorton got in the lane and scored and Chris Holtmann took a timeout with 6:53 to play and Ohio State leading 48-47. Another pair of Rutgers free throws dropped as the lead changed hands again, but a Sensabaugh triple put Ohio State back in front before a Rutgers three answered and the Scarlet Knights took a timeout with 6 minutes to play and leading 52-51. Okpara tipped in a miss before Rutgers split a pair of free throws tied the game. A pair of Sensabaugh free throws broke the tie, but a Rutgers bucket in the middle of an Ohio State zone tied the game once again. Ohio State got careless with the ball on the offensive end and a loose ball was claimed by Rutgers who called timeout with 3:28 to go and the game tied at 55. A Rutgers dunk put the Knights in front and Ohio State took a timeout with Rutgers ahead 57-55 and 1:44 left to play. Sensabaugh drilled a 15 footer to tie with under a minute to play and after a Rutgers miss, Sensabaugh got a good look for three in the waning seconds, but it banked off target. Rutgers raced up the floor and a shot at the horn from deep clanged off the glass and the game went to overtime, tied at 57.

On the first possession of the overtime, a weak foul call on McNeil fouled him out of the ballgame and Rutgers split the pair to take the lead. A rebound and put back by Key gave Ohio State the lead, but a pair of offensive rebounds led to a Rutgers bucket and the Knights were back in front. A missed Sueing three and Rutgers claimed possession and took a timeout with 2:50 left in overtime and leading 60-59. Excellent half court defense by the Buckeyes forced Rutgers into a shot clock violation, giving the ball back to Ohio State and the Buckeyes took a timeout with 2:09 remaining. Out of the timeout, Ohio State took the lead when Sensabaugh knocked down a pair of free throws. Rutgers went back in front, scoring at the rim and after a Buckeye lay up spun out, Rutgers buried a three with 37 seconds to go. Sueing missed a three that went out of bounds off of Ohio State and Rutgers regained possession leading 65-61 with 28 seconds to play. A foul by Ohio State put Rutgers back at the stripe, where both dropped with 21.2 seconds to play sealing the game. After a Buckeye miss, another Rutgers free throw dropped, before Sensabaugh hit a three that completed the scoring. 

Ohio State did a lot of good things in this basketball game, but playing on the road in a tough venue, it just wasn’t enough. Ultimately, however, you are judged by wins and losses and although every loss this season has been winnable games, they are still losses and they need to find a way to win these basketball games in order to be where they want to be in March. While the talent is certainly evident, they just need to learn how to win in the highly physical Big Ten. This season needs to turn around in a hurry as the schedule won’t lighten up any time soon and if they don’t get more from the likes of Justice Sueing and Zed Key, they won’t be able to reach the goals they have for themselves. The leaders need to put this team under their wing right now or it will continue to spiral out of control and this season will go off the rails in a hurry. There is still plenty of time to get it turned around, but they need to string together wins right now. On to the next one and it feels like it’s a must win on the road at Nebraska.

The Buckeyes hit the hardwood again on Wednesday evening, playing Nebraska in Lincoln at 7 PM on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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