Rutgers regroups for midweek matchup at Ohio State
Both of these men's basketball teams enter this Big Ten matchup on the heels of blowout losses, but the overall state of each program remains worlds apart.
After suffering its worst home loss since 1961, Rutgers heads to Ohio State seeking improvement in Wednesday evening's conference road game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
In the 6:30 p.m. ET tip-off to be televised nationally on Big Ten Network, the Scarlet Knights (6-11, 0-4) look to erase the horrific recent memory from Saturday's 34-point shellacking to Nebraska at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
It was the second time Rutgers lost by 34 points this season — the last coming roughly one month ago on Dec. 12 at George Washington — and it matched the worst Big Ten defeat since last February's drubbing at Iowa.
But as Eddie Jordan tried to put the most recent blunder into words at the podium in the media room at the RAC, one harsh realization came to mind.
"I was very disappointed in some of our effort," he said in his opening statement. "That hadn't happened all year."
Since Big Ten play opened up Dec. 30 against Indiana, the third-year head coach has been forced to play with the hand he has been dealt.
Sophomore center Shaquille Doorson (foot) and redshirt freshman Ibrahima Diallo (foot) remain glued to the sideline in matching walking boots. Junior forward Deshawn Freeman (knee) remains a mystery and has been missing in action from the court since Wake Forest on Nov. 30.
Freshman forward Jonathan Laurent joined the club after suffering a mild concussion at Wisconsin, missing the next two games and senior center Greg Lewis (knee) could miss time depending on the severity of an injury suffered over the weekend in the loss to the Cornhuskers.
But as bruised and beaten as Rutgers may collectively be, no one is buying that excuse.
"There is no excuse. A loss is a loss," said sophomore guard Mike Williams, who posted a team-high 22 points against Nebraska on 7-of-12 shooting. "We just gotta — this is the time where we've gotta come together. We can't just fall apart."
Although the Buckeyes (11-6, 3-1) received a 25-point whooping at Indiana on the same day the Knights got embarrassed at the RAC, recent history keeps the overwhelming advantage on OSU's side.
Despite losing superstar point guard D'Angelo Russell to the NBA Draft, Ohio State still maintains the strong upside in talent and depth over a depleted Rutgers roster.
The Buckeyes feature four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by a pair of versatile 6-foot-7 forwards in junior Marc Loving's 14.7 points per game and Keita Bates-Diop's 11.7 points per contest.
While the Knights wait on word regarding the status of Lewis — Jordan said he hoped Laurent would be ready to return for Wednesday, but the freshman remains out with a mild concussion — they will need every last bit of manpower they can muster up to inch their way back to a better rotation.
Until then, a lack of depth could add up to alter the overall effort — just as Lewis realized it might have done in his team's last time out on the court.
"I've seen a lot of plays where we didn't give effort," said Lewis, who mentioned he hopes to be there on the floor for the team despite the injury. "I don't know what it is, man. Maybe it's a little bit of fatigue, but I did see a lot of plays where we just got out-rebounded or we just let a guy go straight to the middle to get a layup."