Midway through the first half of Ohio State’s game against Rutgers Sunday evening, D’Angelo Russell, the star freshman guard, snapped a crisp pass to senior center Trey McDonald who missed a layup to finish the sequence.
But the ball bounced back to Russell, who raised it high, swished a 3-pointer, and casually jogged back on defense.
|#20 OHIO STATE||44||35||79|
This moment seemed to define the Buckeyes this season, which have so often leaned on Russell, one of the nation’s most electrifying players. They relied on him again to obliterate the Scarlet Knights, 79-60, in New Jersey.
In another high-powered outing for 18-year-old guard from Louisville, Russell scored 23 points, dished 11 assists and collected 11 rebounds.
Jae'Sean Tate, the freshman forward who has provided a spark of life over the last month, had 20 points and Keita Bates-Diop, another highly-recruited freshman forward, came off the bench to add 14 points, including three 3-pointers that helped his team bury Rutgers early.
In search of consistency in what's been an uneven start to Big Ten play, Ohio State found some against one of the worst teams in the conference. With the win, the Buckeyes moved into the league’s logjam for second place behind No. 5 Wisconsin.
Without suspended sophomore forward Marc Loving, the team's best deep shooter, they shot 51 percent and led by as many as 25 points.
The rout began in the first half, as the Buckeyes gutted the Scarlet Knights’ interior defense and vexed Rutgers, holding it to 29 shooting and 4-of-23 from 3-point range.
Ohio State, which held a commanding 44-26 lead at intermission, kept up a similar pace in the second half. Whether it was an inbound pass-turned-heart-stopping dunk by senior forward Sam Thompson or a no-look pass from Russell, the Buckeyes made it look easy until Rutgers cut the deficit to 12 points with under six minutes to play.
The contest, though, was never in doubt.
Russell, Tate and Ohio State were too much, as Thad Matta's crew pulled away late.
Ohio State plays Penn State Wednesday night at the Schottenstein Center.