That loss came without second-leading scorer Marc Loving, a player who the athletics department deemed “temporarily lost his privilege to play,” but Ohio State (17-6, 6-4) didn’t use that as an excuse.
Head coach Thad Matta said he is unhappy with the team’s inconsistencies, though he was unable to explain why they keep happening.
“That's what I'm pushing for in terms of trying to get them to play at that level,” the coach said. “I think you look and take the Maryland game. We thought we played great and all that, but we were making shots which definitely helped kind of the flow, the energy when the ball was going in the basket. In the games we've lost this year we've struggled percentage-wise at making shots.”
The Buckeyes shot just 44.8 percent from the floor and connected on four of their 15 three-point attempts against Purdue, making the absence of the Big Ten’s leading three-point shooter in Loving even more glaring. The team will look to bounce back offensively against Rutgers (10-14, 2-9) tonight at 5:30.
The Big Ten newcomers may be exactly what Ohio State needs as the Scarlet Knights have lost seven games in a row. Freshman Jae’Sean Tate said the team cannot look at records when preparing for the Rutgers game.
“We know in the Big Ten it’s going to be a battle every night,” Tate said. “We can’t really look at our record, their record. We’ve just got to go out and play like we would against any of the top teams in the Big Ten because anybody can be beat.”
The Scarlet Knights proved that when they handed Wisconsin their only league loss of the season, and though the Badgers were banged up in that game, it proved that Rutgers is capable of knocking off superior teams.
Rutgers is led by Myles Mack and his 14.5 points per game. Kadeem Jack also averages double digits, contributing 13.4 per game. The Scarlet Knights run a number of elements from the Princeton offense, taking of back-cuts and dribble-handoffs. “Obviously the Mack kid is an unbelievable scorer from the point guard position,” Matta said. “We are going to have to do a great job on him and then they’re long and athletic and they keep balls alive on the offensive glass, and defensively they really use their length and quickness to their advantage.”
On paper, Ohio State is far better than Rutgers, but on the road in conference play anything can happen. The Buckeyes are entering their second straight road game as part of a stretch where four of five games come away from home.
“We understand that we have to be 10 points better when we’re on the road just because you’re playing a team at their home place and they’re just rowdy and ready to play you there,” Scott said. “We’ve got to be more prepared for that and just be more assertive when we’re on the road.”
Ohio State will look to improve on a 2-4 road record tonight against Rutgers.