Rutgers vs. No. 16 Ohio State: Three Observations from another road blowout
It was always going to be an uphill climb for the Rutgers men's basketball team on the road against No. 16 Ohio State. But when true freshman starting guard Geo Baker didn't make the trip due to illness, it became an even tougher task.
The Scarlet Knights (13-17, 3-14) dug themselves into a deep hole in the first half, falling behind 30-11 in the first 14+ minutes of the game. They were able to fight back, though, closing the half on a 16-2 run to go into the locker room down by a score of 32-27.
But the Buckeyes (23-7, 14-3) came out firing in the second half, going on an 18-2 run to put Rutgers away just 8 minutes into the half and would cruise to a 79-52 victory.
Here are three observations from the loss:
No Geo Baker, Problem
The Knights clearly missed Baker, whose absence resulted in Mike Williams played more minutes than head coach Steve Pikiell would've liked, considering he is still coming off an ankle injury. It also meant more minutes for Matt Bullock and walk-on Jake Dadika. Rutgers wouldn't have won if Baker played, but almost certainly would not have lost by that many points.
There was no other threat to shoot 3-pointers outside of Issa Thiam and Mike Williams, who combined to miss all 8 of their attempts. Baker provides offense for a team that is severely lacking in that department and his absence played a big role on Tuesday night.
Road Woes Continue
The Knights played in their 9th and final road game, resulting in their 9th road loss of the season. Since joining the Big Ten, Rutgers is 1-35 in conference road games, with its only win coming last season at Penn State.
An even bigger concern is that the Knights only played well in one road game, when they shockingly took then-No. 4 Michigan State to overtime. Outside of that, they lost all 8 of their other road games by double digits. Rutgers really struggles to play well in the first half on the road, and even when it makes runs, is often in too big of a hole to make a difference.
On to Senior Day
The Knights have just one game remaining in the regular season, when they host Illinois on Senior Day at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Sunday afternoon. Deshawn Freeman, Mike Williams, Candido Sa and Jake Dadika will all be honored in their last game at the RAC.
Rutgers has always played well in emotionally charged games at the RAC, such as its upset over Seton Hall earlier in the season. With someone who has given as much to the program as Mike Williams has, it will be interesting to see how the team comes out and plays against a team it is tied for last place in the Big Ten with.