Rutgers is in the midst of its third season in the Big Ten and has finished last in each of the first two campaigns. The Scarlet Knights (13-11, 2-9 Big Ten) are one victory away from equaling their league win total from the previous two seasons combined. They posted a 2-16 conference record in 2014-15 and a 1-17 mark last year.
Ohio State (14-10, 4-7) is 3-0 vs. Rutgers since the Knights entered the league, winning each contest by 10 points or more. Despite all the numbers being in OSU’s favor, the Buckeyes are not overlooking their conference foe.
“This is one of the better Rutgers teams in the past couple years,” said OSU junior center Trevor Thompson on Tuesday. “Even though it may not display with their record, they play against a lot of teams pretty close. We definitely can’t come into this game – because we’ve learned our lesson from coming into games and thinking it’s going to be light. So we got to expect a fight and I think we’re going to be ready for a fight.”
Thompson and his teammates will have a battle on the glass because Rutgers leads the conference with 42.2 rebounds per game as well as 15.2 offensive boards per contest. Buckeye head coach Thad Matta is aware of these numbers and noted the Scarlet Knights have assumed a familiar identity.
“They’re going to play very hard, they’re going to play very physical,” Matta said Tuesday regarding Rutgers. “They do a nice job of executing the actions that they’re going to run. They really, really rebound the basketball well on the offensive end. They have been in the league now three years and they’ve become another typical Big Ten team.”
As for individual players, sophomore guard Corey Sanders paces the Knights with 13.0 points per game and 3.4 assists each time out.
“He’s a great lead guard and can really score the basketball, does a heck of a job,” Matta said of Sanders. “He’s quick with the ball, he gets inside the defense. When he’s making shots, he’s that much better.”
Records and series history aside, Matta knows that a home game doesn’t ensure his club a win over Rutgers. On Saturday alone, all four Big Ten road teams came away with victories, which included Rutgers prevailing at Penn State.
“You look at Saturday in college basketball across the board, man, there’s no guarantees anymore that you’re at home, you’re probably going to play well and you’re probably going to win,” Matta said. “I think our guys are aware enough to know sort of what’s at stake and those types of things.”
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