Top NBA prospect D'Angelo Russell dismantles Rutgers
D'Angelo Russell crouched over and dribbled the ball repeatedly back and forth just in front of midcourt, staring straight into Mike Williams' eyes.
No. 20 Ohio State's freshman phenom let the first-half game clock wind down before drifting to his left, inducing a double-team from the Rutgers men's basketball team.
Russell, projected to be a top-three pick in June's NBA Draft, immediately knew what to do.
Flashing the court vision that 22 scouts in attendance craved, the 6-foot-5 guard flicked the ball into the corner to Jae'Sean Tate. His teammate did the rest, attacking an unguarded lane for an easy dunk.
It was that effortless of a Sunday evening for Russell and the Buckeyes, who dissected the Scarlet Knights from start to finish in a 79-60 blowout at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
"He's always looking up the floor," Williams, a fellow freshman guard, said of Russell. "You've got some freshmen that have tunnel vision. They try to get their [points], but I think he's ready for the next level. The way he was composed even with me harassing him ... he just looked comfortable out there. That shows that he's a really good player."
Rutgers (10-15, 2-10) dropped its eighth-straight game, showing few signs of life in the process.
With six minutes left in regulation, the Knights crept back within 12 on a layup from freshman forward D.J. Foreman. A sold-out crowd within RAC was back on its feet.
Then, Russell took over again.
On Ohio State's (18-6, 7-4) next possession, he whipped another seamless pass down low to Tate for a tough layup in traffic.
Eighteen seconds later, Russell swished a deep two-pointer coming off a screen at the top of the key to push the lead back up to 73-57. And finally with 4:17 to play, he corralled his 10th rebound for his first triple-double of the year.
With 23 points, 11 boards and 11 assists in 35 minutes, even a rookie sensation who is second in the Big Ten in scoring and has dazzled all season long was accomplishing new things.
"One of his biggest strengths is that he has pieces on his team that allow other teams not to be able to help off," said junior guard Bishop Daniels. "Or we can't play a certain type of defense because everybody else on his team is a threat, too."
The Knights were not even close to being able to say the same in another clear-cut Big Ten mismatch.
Senior forward Kadeem Jack and senior guard Myles Mack combined for only 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Neither reached double figures for the first time in conference play.
Rutgers' bench chipped in 14 points — nine from Foreman — after producing only four the previous two games. Except most of them were when the game was out of reach in the second half.
The Knights' early offensive struggles lied within another 2-3 zone, which Ohio State head coach Thad Matta employed not long into the first half.
"A lot of it just has to do with us not hitting shots," Daniels said of Rutgers' troubles against zones. "We get open shots, we get the ball in the paint, we get the ball in the middle of the zone, and we're just not hitting them. That's something we as players have got to work on."
Rutgers converted 29 percent of its attempts from the field compared to Ohio State's sizzling 50.8 clip.
The Buckeyes' superior depth showed with 26 bench points, shredding the Knights' man-to-man schemes as thoroughly as Michigan State did Jan. 29 in Rutgers' last outing at the RAC.
Ohio State even completed two alley-oops from out of bounds in the second half to add insult to injury.
"It was really difficult to come back," Mack said. "They run their sets, they execute, they get the ball to their best players and they make plays."
The 180-pound Russell was at the heart of it all, showing off exceptional quickness, crisp passing ability and a lethal left-handed jumper from everywhere on the floor.
"I had watched him on tape. The more I watched, the less sleep I got," said head coach Eddie Jordan. "He's calm; he sees everything; he's patient; he delivers; he reads the defense; he's got a real smooth game about him. The kid's going to have a great, great future."
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