Duane Washington Jr., E.J. Liddell lead Ohio State to comeback stunner against Rutgers

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) is surrounded by Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Geo Baker (0), Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Ron Harper Jr. (24), and Rutgers Scarlet Knights forward Dean Reiber (21) during the second half of Wednesday's NCAA Division I basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Oh. on December 23, 2020. Ohio State won the game 80-68.

After trailing by as many as 16 points during the second half, Ohio State (6-1, 1-1 Big Ten) put together a 14-0 run during the final moments and won going away, 80-67, to stun No. 11 Rutgers (6-1, 2-1) inside Value City Arena.

Notebook: Duane Washington, Ohio State stage massive comeback win against Rutgers

When Mamadou Doucoure threw down a dunk while being fouled and hit the ensuing free throw with 13:36 to play, it pushed the Rutgers lead back to 15 points at 53-38 and the Buckeyes were reeling.

Then Seth Towns did something he hadn’t done in 1,018 days – score in a Division I game. The Harvard graduate transfer nabbed a Duane Washington Jr. miss and scored to make it a 53-40 game, and it would be the start of the comeback.

From there, the Buckeyes would eventually pull even on a Washington floater from the right baseline with 4:54 to play and reclaim the lead seconds later when the Rutgers coaches were assessed a technical foul, awarding Ohio State a pair of free throws. Washington hit them both, and E.J. Liddell buried a turnaround jumper with Ron Harper Jr. in his face to give the Buckeyes a 65-61 lead, their first since they were ahead 5-4 in the first minutes of the game.

Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) is guarded by Rutgers Scarlet Knights forward Mamadou Doucoure (11) during the second half of Wednesday's NCAA Division I basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Oh. on December 23, 2020. Ohio State won the game 80-68.

Liddell’s basket came with 4:09 to play and capped what had been a 27-8 run for the Buckeyes.

Much of it came after Rutgers lost one of its key contributors with 7:29 to play when Jacob Young went in for a dunk, missed and was fouled by Kyle Young. He fell hard on his neck/upper back and would need help to limp off the floor. At the time he was second in scoring for Rutgers with 12 points.

Washington scored a career-high 22 points, all but six of which came after halftime. Liddell had a career-high 21. Young finished with his first double-double of the season at 17 points and 12 rebounds, setting a new career-high scoring total.

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Ohio State closed the game on a 42-15 run. It also marked the third time in five years Rutgers started the season 6-0 only to lose its seventh game.

Ron Harper Jr. led Rutgers with 20 points, but he missed his final six shots from the floor and did not score during the final 10 minutes.

The afternoon started off promising enough. Washington Jr. hit a three-pointer and Young scored down low for a quick 5-0 lead, but Rutgers took the lead at 7-5 and didn’t trail for the remainder of the half.

In a reversal of recent history, Rutgers pulled away early by beating the Buckeyes from the perimeter while Ohio State countered by pounding the ball down low. After Washington’s three on the second possession of the game, the Buckeyes missed their final nine during the first half. Rutgers, meanwhile, hit four of its first five and was 7 for 13 (53.8%) from deep as it took a 38-28 lead into the locker room.

It explained how the Buckeyes held a 20-8 advantage in points scored in the paint but trailed by 10 on the scoreboard. Only four Ohio State players made first-half field goals, with E.J. Liddell and Young each scoring eight points on 7 for 11 shooting from two-point range.

Rutgers was the first ranked opponent Ohio State faced this season.

ajardy@dispatch.com

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