Rutgers vs. Ohio State: Four Observations from an ugly blowout loss
It was not an ideal Sunday night for the Rutgers men's basketball team, to say the least.
The Scarlet Knights ran into the hottest shooting team in the Big Ten in Ohio State, but the story of the night wasn't the Buckeyes' efficient offense, but rather Rutgers' startling inability to put points on the board.
After falling behind 28-15 at halftime, things did not improve, as Ohio State was able to run away with the game and win by a score of 68-46.
The star forward was the focus of the game, as Bates-Diop entered Sunday night as the Big Ten's leading scorer. He was cold early, but his three consecutive shots in the first half, including back-to-back three-pointers to give the Buckeyes a 21-11 lead and pull away from the Knights early.
Although Issa Thiam did a solid job early, Bates-Diop's length proved to be too much and he wore down the Rutgers. Although he didn't take over the game like he did when the Buckeyes upset then-No. 2 Michigan State last week, he played a key role in Ohio State's dominant run to close out the first half and open the second.
Rutgers missed Mike Williams
No player on the roster represented "Rutgers Basketball" better than Williams, who won his teammates and fans over with his relentless effort and heart. The Knights clearly are not the same team without him, as their three-guard lineup with him, Corey Sanders and Geo Baker has been their most efficient one.
Despite not having impressive numbers, Williams seemed to always give the team an emotional spark when he out-muscled a bigger player for an offensive rebound or hit a pivotal three-pointer. There was really no spark off the bench for Rutgers on Sunday and it is clear the team is not the same without him.
Geo Baker looks like he's finding his game
It's weird to say since he's a true freshman, but Geo Baker looked like his old self in the second half. He had a solid night shooting from behind the arc (4 of 8) and did not turn the ball over once, scoring a team-high 14 points.. His most impressive play of the night was with 4:34 left in the game when he took an outlet pass from Eugene Omoruyi off of a turnover and split two Buckeye defenders for a left-handed dunk. Williams out for an extended amount of time, Baker will need to step up and be a more vocal leader as well as a more prominent scorer for the Knights, because they will need him big-time in the final 15 games of the season.
The offensive game plan needs to improve
Rutgers shot 19.4 percent in the first half, which is simply unacceptable. The Knights looked out of sorts on offense, making countless poor decisions shooting the ball and scoring a season-low 15 points in the first 20 minutes. Deshawn Freeman was forcing the ball up all over the place and didn't see a shot he didn't like. He finished 1 of 12 from the field but even more surprisingly, did not collect a single rebound. He was apparently sick during the game against Michigan State game and was not himself against the Buckeyes.
Rutgers has not been a good offensive team this season, but Sunday night was a new low for the team. Head coach Steve Pikiell and his staff will need to take a step back a re-evaluate where the team stands without Williams, because if it plays anywhere close to the way it did against Ohio State, it will be a long and brutal rest of the year.