Rutgers suffers third straight blowout despite strong first half in 94-68 shellacking against Ohio State
Sitting in his seat on the podium in the interview room of the Rutgers Athletic Center, head coach Eddie Jordan pointed out the lack of effort that led to the Rutgers men’s basketball team's worst home loss since 1961.
Jordan had planned a day off for his team following its matchup with Nebraska, but after the 90-56 drubbing, the third-year head coach made his players report to practice to “reiterate to them what effort and harmony is.”
The message appeared to be heard loud and clear in the early going of the Scarlet Knights’ meeting with Ohio State on Wednesday evening. The Knights outplayed their hosts for large stretches of time during the first half in Columbus, entering the half with a surprising 41-39 lead.
But effort can only take a team so far and the problems Rutgers has faced all season were exposed by the Buckeyes.
Ohio State (12-6, 4-1) exploded out of the gates in the second half, outscoring the Knights (6-12, 0-5), 55-27, in the final 20 minutes to join the latest list of teams to blowout their visitors with an emphatic 94-68 win.
As they’ve done many times this season, the Buckeyes responded to a lackluster first half with a scorching start to the second.
Ohio State opened the second half with a 13-0 run to establish its first double-digit lead of the night at 52-39. Senior guard Bishop Daniels ended the Buckeyes’ run with an athletic up-and-under lay in with 15:25 remaining but the hosts responded with a 19-9 run.
After outrebounding the Buckeyes by seven in the first 20 minutes despite again having just two bigs available in sophomore forward D.J. Foreman and senior center Greg Lewis, Rutgers was manhandled on the glass in the second period.
Ohio State completely turned the tables, corralling the first six misses of the second period en route to outrebounding the Knights 45-36 at the end of 40 minutes.
Because of their disadvantage inside, Rutgers was forced to rely on outside shooting to stay in the game, a strategy that worked in the first half.
The Knights didn’t find the same success in the second half, however, going 0-for-7 from three after shooting 46.2 percent from downtown in the opening period.
Rutgers’ early success was due in large part to Corey Sanders’ blazing start.
The freshman guard tried to do his best D’Angelo Russell impression in the Knights’ first ever trip to the Buckeye State, and he may have fooled those tuning in to the game into thinking the Big Ten Network was rerunning last year’s contest early on.
He hit four of his first five attempts from the field, including a 3-for-4 clip from three, and appeared to be on his way to repeating the now-Los Angeles Laker's triple-double performance in a 79-60 win at the RAC a year ago.
Instead, it was Ohio State freshman guard Marques Lyles repeating Russell's performance, posting a triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Sanders' early efficiency at the Value City Arena provided Rutgers’ first seven points and 12 of its first 18, keeping the game tied entering the under-12 media timeout.
After Marc Loving hit two free throws out of the break to give the Buckeyes a 2-point lead, the Knights went on a 15-6 spurt to take a commanding 33-26 lead with 4:26 remaining in the opening half. It forced Thad Matta to call a 30-second timeout.
Both teams traded blows for the remainder of the half until a buzzer-beater by Loving brought the score to 41-39 at the intermission.
The Buckeyes then took control, dominating in the paint — where they outscored Rutgers, 58-28 — and on the glass.
They showcased their athletic ability with emphatic dunks, including a number of alley-oops and pushed their lead to as much as 26 with a minute remaining in the contest.
The final minute turned into a dunk contest down the stretch, with both teams trading blows until a missed Foreman dunk made Knights’ fans hold their breath as he fell hard on the court.
Thankfully for Jordan, as BTN play-by-play announcer Cory Provus said on the national broadcast, the only thing that was bruised following the play was Foreman’s ego.
Following a third consecutive blowout loss surely to add another blow to the entire program, Rutgers’ schedule is only increasing in difficulty. The Knights host two of the top teams in the Big Ten at the RAC next week, welcoming No. 24 Purdue to the Banks before No. 16 Iowa visits three days later.
If Jordan’s team wants to end its current 20-game skid in Big Ten conference play, it will take much more than effort.