Path changes but Rutgers ends up in same spot in 79-69 loss to Ohio State
Sporting a new look, Corey Sanders had a change of pace in mind.
The rookie guard, coming off of his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award of the season, had chopped off his baby dreads hairstyle in favor of a cleaner cut. As he put it, the new haircut was his way of getting back to his "started-from-the-bottom" ways.
With the way things have been for the Rutgers men's basketball team, maybe there was even a shot the superstitious change could switch things up.
But even that couldn't change the Scarlet Knights' final destination.
As much as Sanders led the charge of sprints and fast breaks to shift his team's misfortune with a team-high 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting, Rutgers couldn't keep up in its 40-minute marathon with Ohio State.
The Knights suffered their 12th straight loss by a score of 79-69, extending a seemingly never-ending Big Ten skid to 27 games.
"Our wins are coming from the way we're keeping our spirits up. That's how we're measuring our wins right now, we're not really concerned about that streak," Sanders said. "If we win the game, it'd be great ... We go out to win the game, but we don't come in here and sulk about a loss because, like I said, when we see improvement, that's a win for us."
Rutgers (6-19, 0-12) used a series of spurts to climb back into the game and give the 5,658 in attendance what they paid for in the Saturday afternoon contest at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
But the Buckeyes (16-10, 8-5) were simply too overpowering for the Knights to complete a comeback, taking the lead roughly five minutes into the ballgame that they never relinquished.
Outside of Sanders, Rutgers missed shots from all over the floor. The Knights shot 25-for-65 from the field — 15-for-46 excluding Sanders.
"It's probably as cold inside as it is outside for us today," said head coach Eddie Jordan. "We didn't make any shots. We had open looks, we had quality possessions. We didn't make layups and finish to start the game, obviously. And then throughout the game we got better. There were just some plays we didn't finish."
The Knights surely attacked the rim for high-percentage shots, racking up 44 points in the paint as a clear catalyst in their scoring prowess.
But for every shot Rutgers threw over the course of the contest, Ohio State had a stronger answer.
Despite Sanders keeping JaQuan Lyle in check for only 4 points on 1-for-6 shooting, the Knights couldn't account for Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate. The Buckeyes' tandem combined for 46 points, and Kam Williams brought the dagger with his 19 points and 5-for-8 clip on 3-pointers.
Riding the hot hand of Sanders throughout much of the game, Rutgers received 13 points from sophomore guard Mike Williams on top of 10 points and six rebounds from sophomore forward D.J. Foreman.
Beyond that, the Knights couldn't muster up enough of a punch to wind it all the way back.
While the Buckeyes buried nine treys after a slow start, Rutgers shot a woeful 3-for-20 from behind the 3-point arc for a paltry 15-percent clip.
It's the latest blow in a losing narrative that has plagued Piscataway for the past 13 months, dating back to the Knights' last win in their new conference.
But as the defeats pile up, the morale in the locker room hasn't died down.
"I mean, I know that that means that there's hope," Williams said. "We're a very young team ... It gives me hope because the chemistry's gonna build over time. Our big man's gonna be back, our big man's not gonna be hurt no more, we have Nigel (Johnson) coming in. I'm looking forward to the future. That's where my spirit is at."