What a difference a half makes.
After a listless first half that saw Ohio State allow Rutgers to get to the rim at will and score 41 points, the Buckeyes opened the second half on a 12-0 run on their way to a dominating second stanza and a 94-68 win Wednesday.
Four quick second-half points from Jae’Sean Tate gave the Buckeyes (12-5, 4-1 Big Ten) the lead for good as they forced two Rutgers turnovers during the blitz that opened the second frame. The Scarlet Knights (6-12, 0-5) would finally get on the board at the 15:25 mark of the second half, but Ohio State continued to poor it on extending the run to 22-5 for a comfortable 61-46 margin with 11:49 remaining.
“We just played harder in the second half,” Tate said. “We got a little lower in our stances, tougher boxing out, just making sure we keep possession of the ball on the rebounds and 50-50 balls. Just playing harder.”
JaQuan Lyle finished with a triple-double for the Buckeyes, scoring 16 points with 11 assists and 11 rebounds. It’s the first triple-double for Ohio State since D’Angelo Russell had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against Rutgers on Feb. 8, 2015. Prior to Russell, no Ohio State freshman had ever recorded a triple-double, but Lyle makes it two in as many seasons.
“I’m making shots, creating for my teammates and that just comes with confidence from them believing in me,” Lyle said. “Every day in practice, just going hard and getting better as a team. With (my teammates) all making plays, the lanes begin to open up for me so I’m taking that and then when they do cut me off they’re finishing. If it wasn’t for them, it would be hard to do what I’m doing right now.”
It was the fifth triple-double in Ohio State history as Dennis Hopson had one, Evan Turner logged two and Russell had one. Lyle's career night also allowed him to join Russell as the only Buckeyes to register triple-doubles in conference play.
Thanks in part to Lyle’s passing, the Buckeyes looked like a different team after halftime. Ohio State got out in transition and shared the ball on offense and stayed in front of the Scarlet Knights and challenged shots defensively.
Ohio State held Rutgers to 33.3 percent shooting after halftime while the Scarlet Knights missed all seven of their three-point attempts in the second period after nailing six in the first. The Buckeyes outscored Rutgers 55-27 in the second half.
Rutgers, meanwhile, didn’t bring the same intensity in the second half, coach Eddie Jordan said.
“A team like that,” Jordan said of Ohio State, “Once they taste a little blood, a little let down, they get after you.”
Lyle was one of six players in double figures. Kam Williams, Jae’Sean Tate, and Keita Bates-Diop each had 14 while Trevor Thompson added 11. The result was a season-high 94 points for Ohio State.
While the Buckeyes were dominant in the second, the first half was an ugly one for the Buckeyes as the team’s defense seemed to pick up where it left off after a 25-point loss to Indiana Sunday.
While Ohio State had little trouble scoring in the early going – the Buckeyes hit their first three shots and connected on 50 percent of their first-half field goals – but couldn’t contain a Rutgers team that entered the game scoring 68 points per game, 278th nationally.
Matta delivered an impassioned halftime speech that would leave him drained, according to Tate, and the head coach was more hoarse than usual after the game.
“It wasn’t a lot of Xs and Os at halftime it was more challenging guys to do a better job at what we needed to do, especially on the defensive end,” Matta said. “Offensively we weren’t that bad, but defensively we were just, you know, not active, not moving, not guarding. When a guy can drive from 30 feet in and shoot a layup that tells me we’re not as dialed in as we need to be.”
The Scarlet Knights started hot thanks to Corey Sanders. The guard scored Rutgers’ first seven points and finished the first half with 17 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3.
Sanders powered the Scarlet Knights to a back-and-forth first half that saw Rutgers lead by as many as eight. That advantage came at 37-29 with 1:57 left in the half. The Buckeyes finally got things going from there, closing the stanza on a 10-4 run that saw Harris, Loving, Williams and Bates-Diop score, sending the Buckeyes to the break trailing 41-39.
While he didn’t score on the run, Lyle kept the Buckeyes close in the first half scoring or assisting on 20 of the team’s 39 points (11 points, four assists) and hauling in 10 of the Buckeyes’ 14 first-half rebounds.