Rutgers tops Ohio State, earns Big Ten tourney date with Northwestern

Cheryl Sanders
March 9, 2017

Ohio State Athletic Director and Senior Vice President Gene Smith backed basketball coach Thad Matta on Wednesday morning amid a tough stretch, but the encouraging words were not enough to inspire the Buckeyes that evening.

Top star: Nigel Johnson, Rutgers.

In a game that was a opportunity for Rutgers to make a major statement to the rest of the Big Ten, they delivered.

Plagued all season by the inability to close out games, 14th-seeded Rutgers overcame a rough shooting performance to beat 11th-seeded Ohio State 66-57 Wednesday night in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

But in the end, thanks to an inability to convert at the stripe or pick up critical rebounds, Ohio State lost to Rutgers to open the Big Ten Tournament.

A five-point lead was three, and the tone was set for what would be a disastrous second half for the Buckeyes.

The Knights matched grabbed a six-point lead with under six minutes to play, but the Buckeyes chipped away, keeping things tight. Redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson, OSU's bright spot throughout the season, struggled with early foul trouble, but still managed eight points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. "We were able to fight and get a win".

Rutgers did what it does best and that was rebound.

Coming into the game, Rutgers was ranked 347th in the nation in free throw percentage, but knocked down four straight to seal the deal, and move on to the second round of the conference tournament.

Ohio State made 5 of 21 field goal attempts (23.8 percent), 2 of 8 3-pointers and hit just 13 of 22 free throws (59.1 percent). It was like watching the underdog fighter continue to take punches from the bigger boxer, but they kept coming and the Buckeyes broke down in the second half. I wanted our guys to go for it. Jackson said. "Going against any team like [Rutgers], a team pressuring, a team trying to get in your face and disrupt you, they're going to be successful with that if you're not on the attack right back, like we weren't tonight".

Rutgers brought the energy with a 32-8 advantage off the bench, and its post players brought the juice to outmuscle Ohio State in the paint 30-18. I thought that helped us, too. But the Knights trailed by just three at the half, thanks in large part to their 12-2 edge in second-chance points. But even though C.J Jackson has dramatically improved as a three point shooter over the last few games, the Buckeyes don't have the personnel to really exploit this, leading to an inability to sustain leads.

With the scheduled portion of their season over, the Buckeyes are mum on what is in the near future for them.

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