Physical Scarlet Knights upset Buckeyes
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — With students who returned early from winter break spilling onto the court, even the public-address announcer at the Rutgers Athletic Center seemed confused by what had just happened.
The voice blared from the speakers, announcing a final score of Rutgers 61, Ohio State 61. The Buckeyes would’ve gladly taken that compared to the numbers on the scoreboard. For just the second time in five years in the Big Ten, Rutgers knocked off a ranked conference opponent, scoring the final six points of the game to stun the No. 16 Buckeyes 64-61, in front of 5,379 fans.
“We can’t let this define us,” sophomore center Kaleb Wesson said. “We can’t let these two losses define us. We’re better team than our last two losses.”
Last Saturday, No. 8 Michigan State came to Value City Arena and edged the Buckeyes late. Wednesday night, it was a team ranked No. 115 nationally according to KenPom.com and was 1-5 against top-100 teams this season. The win was only the 35th in program history against a ranked team, and the Scarlet Knights (8-6, 1-3) led for 29:41.
“I’ve been saying for weeks that we’ve got a long ways to go and I’m not sure if that ranking means anything,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “We have to, as coaches and players, accept responsibility for this loss and figure out how to get better and move forward. I don’t really worry about the optics of it or what it means beyond just figuring out a way to coach our guys better.”
In a game of runs, Ohio State (12-3, 2-2) looked to have the last laugh with a 7-0 streak capped by a C.J. Jackson layup with 2:37 to play that gave the Buckeyes a 61-58 lead and led to a Rutgers timeout. From there, Ohio State missed its final three shots and had an unforced turnover while freshman guard Montez Mathis scored on consecutive possessions to reclaim the lead at 62-61 with 1:07 to play.
When Luther Muhammad missed a baseline jumper and Rutgers' Geo Baker hit a deep, contested jumper with 13 seconds remaining, Ohio State called timeout with 10.3 seconds left and drew up a play to get a three-pointer. The result was an open look for Jackson in front of the Buckeyes' bench, but his shot bounced off the rim to cap a 2-for-9 night from beyond the arc.
The miss set off the celebration.
“That’s the shot we wanted,” Wesson said. “C.J.’s going to hit that nine times out of 10. I have no problem with that shot.”
Wesson scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
Rutgers lost leading scorer Eugene Omoyuri to what was officially classified as a left leg injury moments into the first half. His scream of agony echoed throughout the arena as the trainers appeared to pop his left ankle back into place while coach Steve Pikiell rubbed the junior's head with both hands to soothe him.