Kaleb Wesson left no doubts with how Ohio State felt about Wednesday night’s win against Rutgers.
Although the Buckeyes led for more than 37 minutes and pushed their lead to 20 points with 13:05 to play, it took three made free throws in the final 21 seconds to hold onto a 72-66 win against the Scarlet Knights.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
In front of a crowd thinned by winter weather, the Scarlet Knights (17-8, 8-6 Big Ten) had put together a 31-14 run to make it a one-possession game in the final minute before the Buckeyes (16-8, 6-7) held on.
In a league projected to get at least 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament, the end result was wholeheartedly deemed more meaningful than the manner in which it transpired.
“Shoot, a win’s a win in the Ten,” Wesson, who had a team-high 16 points, said with a smile. “They’re not going to look pretty in the Ten. A win is a win in the Ten.”
At the break, it looked to be a walk in the park for the Buckeyes, who had seen their three-game winning streak snapped at Wisconsin three days prior. When Andre Wesson and Justin Ahrens closed with back-to-back three-pointers within the final minute, it gave Ohio State a 45-30 lead that seemed insurmountable. It tied for the second-most points for the Buckeyes during a first half this season, just one point shy of the high of 46 scored against Penn State on Dec. 7.
Then Rutgers came roaring back. The Scarlet Knights still trailed by 15 with 6:20 remaining, but rode a streak of seven consecutive made field goals to fight back into it. And when Geo Baker drilled a three-pointer with 27.1 seconds left to pull within 69-66, it set the stage for some dramatic foul shots.
Andre Wesson split a pair to push it back to a two-possession game with 21.2 seconds to play, and CJ Walker added two more with 12 seconds left to set the final margin.
Although coach Chris Holtmann said he wasn’t happy about some of his team’s second-half shot selection or its defensive approach, he wasn’t about to argue too much about taking a step closer to getting back to .500 in league play with a home game against Purdue looming Saturday.
“It’s too hard to win in this league,” Holtmann said. “You think I’m going to come in here with a sour (mood)? Nick Saban might, but I’m not going to.”