While Ohio State has struggled at times this season, the Buckeyes have consistently topped the teams they’re expected to beat. That was the case when Thad Matta’s team traveled to Piscataway, N.J., to take on Rutgers and Ohio State didn’t disappoint.
The Buckeyes (16-10, 8-5 Big Ten) and Scarlet Knights (6-19, 0-12) were tied three times in the early going before Keita Bates-Diop broke a 6-6 tie with a layup. That score from the sophomore started a 16-0 Ohio State run and put the game out of reach for the home team as the Buckeyes left The RAC with a 79-69 win Saturday.
Bates-Diop powered the Buckeyes to a 22-6 advantage, scoring 10 points in the run, as Rutgers started the game 3 of 21 from the field and suffered an 8:29 scoring drought. The Scarlet Knights battled back with a 16-0 run of their own as the Buckeyes struggled in the half court, allowing the home team to take things to halftime with Ohio State up 35-26.
Bates-Diop, however, picked up where he left off in the second half, scoring on a runner in the lane to start a second frame that the Buckeyes controlled. That would give Ohio State a double-digit lead they would hold for much of the final 20 minutes, though it struggled to truly separate from Rutgers in the road win.
Ohio State was led by Bates-Diop who recorded his fifth career double –double, scoring a team-high 24 and hauling in a career-high 14 rebounds. That was part of a dominating effort on the glass as the Buckeyes won the battle of the boards 46-33. Jae’Sean Tate also logged a double-double with 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds of his own.
Joining Tate and Bates-Diop in double figures was Kam Williams as the sharp-shooting sophomore scored 12 of his 19 in the second half.
The Scarlet Knights would cut the lead to seven three more times, the final time on free throws from Mike Williams with 6:10 remaining. Kam Williams answered that with a three in transition before Bates-Diop hit a three from the right wing on the ensuing possession.
Rutgers wouldn’t go away, however, as Mike Williams hit free throws to again pull within eight. Ohio State finally took control for good from there as the Buckeyes scored five straight to put the advantage in double figures for good.
The Buckeyes would have been able to put the Scarlet Knights away earlier had their first half defense carried over after the break. Ohio State held Rutgers to 31.4 percent shooting in the first half (11 of 35), but the Scarlet Knights connected on 46.7 percent of their second-half attempts (14 of 30). The fact that the Buckeyes committed 10 of their 19 turnovers in the second half certainly didn’t help
The home team was led by Corey Sanders as the freshman scored a team-high 23. D.J. Foreman and Williams joined him in double figures with 10 and 13, respectively.
The loss marked the 10th time this season that Rutgers has lost by double figures in conference play.