Road Big Ten games against top-25 opponents are supposed to be difficult.
In the Chris Holtmann era, Ohio State was 1-9 in road games vs. top-25 Big Ten opponents. The sole win was against Purdue in his first season. Usually, they're a challenge.
But not for the most part on Saturday in the Rutgers Athletic Center. Not 17 days after Rutgers center Myles Johnson called his shot, zeroing in on the rematch with the Buckeyes after he fouled out of the Scarlet Knights' 80-68 loss to them on Dec. 23.
Ohio State pounced on Rutgers early, ending the first half on a 22-4 run to pull ahead by 12 points as the teams entered the locker room. By the fifth minute of the second half, the Buckeyes pulled away for a 20-point lead, and though the Scarlet Knights closed the gap to eight points with 59 seconds remaining, Ohio State secured a 79-68 victory.
Bouncing back from a 17-point road loss to Minnesota, the Buckeyes improved to 9-3 on the season and 3-3 within the Big Ten.
E.J. Liddell (17 points) and Duane Washington Jr. (17 points) led an Ohio State offense that shot 51 percent from the floor and went 10-for-24 from 3-point range. Washington was 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Kyle Young added 13 points, and Justice Sueing had 11 points, 10 boards and five assists.
A good portion of the Buckeyes' success can be attributed to their success on the glass where they held a 43-29 edge in the rebounding department, including nine on the offensive end.
Doubling up his previous season-high of 28 minutes as a starter due to CJ Walker's hand injury, Jimmy Sotos served as the point guard at the head of a free-flowing offense. He recorded six points, four assists and three rebounds but exited the game with less than four minutes remaining, clutching his shoulder as he was helped to the locker room.
The Scarlet Knights shot 45 percent from the floor but was only 5-for-19 from the arc and 5-of-10 from the foul line. Ohio State attempted 28 free throws, making 19 of them.
The game wasn't always in the hands of the Buckeyes, though. At least, not early on Saturday.
Despite Ohio State going ahead 18-13 in the first eight-and-a-half minutes, including a stretch that included seven made shots in seven possessions, Rutgers started a 10-point run –buoyed by a four-point play – to pull ahead by five points. That preceded the Buckeyes' 22-4 run, however, which swung the game to end the half in the road team's favor.
Next up: Ohio State goes back to Columbus for a home rematch with Northwestern at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The Wildcats beat the Buckeyes, 71-70, in Evanston, Illinois, on Dec. 26.
- Meechie Johnson Jr. made his Ohio State debut after graduating early from Garfield Heights High School and enrolling in college in mid-December. He started practicing within the past week, so his playing time is capped. Still, he entered Saturday's game with 11:34 remaining in the first half and played four minutes.
- CJ Walker and Ibrahima Diallo both sat out, as expected. Walker was diagnosed with torn ligaments in his right hand earlier this week and will be out of commission for an indefinite period of time. Diallo has a sprained MCL and will not return to play anytime soon.
- Head coach Chris Holtmann, who's talked recently about potentially cutting down his rotation, has not done so yet. He played all 11 players on his bench within the first 12 minutes of the game.
- This was the second and final game between Ohio State and Rutgers of the regular season. The Buckeyes won the first matchup, 80-68, on Dec. 23 in Columbus.
- Ohio State entered the day with a 9-3 all-time record versus the Scarlet Knights and a 5-1 mark in the Holtmann era.
- Kyle Young reached the 500-point mark on Saturday.