The Ohio State University Men’s basketball team rolled into Piscataway, NJ on Wednesday the 9th as the nationally sixth ranked team in the nation. It was supposed to be an easy journey. But – who forgot to inform Rutgers of this?
Now, must I take this route? Where is Rutgers supposed to get its next Big Ten win?
But this is the question being asked following their stunning win over the Buckeyes, at home, 64-61
A driving lay-up in the lane from Montez Mathis with 1:07 to play gave Rutgers the lead for good, enabling this unbelievable stunner over the ranked Buckeyes in front of a home crowd of 5,379 Wednesday at the RAC, where the student section acted accordingly and stormed the floor at the final buzzer, as ifit was a national title.
Mathis finished with a career-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting in 31 minutes, four days after the Baltimore native was the only Scarlet Knight to show up against the Terrapins prior to this one. His effort, plus encouraging showings from Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. helped deliver the mark(ed) win at this point of Steve Pikiell’s tenure as head coach.
Rutgers (8-6, 1-3 Big Ten) has now defeated a ranked team at home, and stormed the court, in consecutive years after it beat 15th-ranked Seton Hall last season. This marks the program’s first win over a ranked Big Ten team since 2015 when it beat Frank Kaminsky-less, fourth-ranked Wisconsin in 2015.
1. This Rutgers team is a surprise – but do not let your guard down! In 14 games, Rutgers has experienced the scope of “usefulness”. It has beaten lesser teams, gotten beaten by less lesser teams, gotten its doors blown off by good teams, put a scare into good teams, and has now knocked off a Big Ten power.
“It’s not easy, best league in the country with a ton of ranked teams,” Pikiell said. “We’re a young team and figuring it out, but they’re persevering through it. It’s a journey. There’s ups and there’s downs, but this is certainly a great up for us.”
“I definitely feel like Ohio State came in today thinking this was an easy win,” said Harper, who shot just 3-for-13 for his 12 points, but played 29 minutes in his first start. “I think we showed a lot of people that we can be really good. If we keep building, we’re a team to really look out for.”
Pikiell is indeed a capable coach, but a lot of the key rotation pieces are young and inexperienced, so expect these wild swings to continue.
Close your eyes, go ahead, and imagine this scenario. Four days after looking awful against Maryland, you have to play Ohio State. Oh, NO! And then early in the first half, Eugene Omoruyi is lost for the night, if not longer, with a left leg injury. Does that sound like the recipe for a successful evening?
Rutgers is not the best team in New Jersey, but one could certainly make a case after Wednesday that it is the most interesting.
2. Is Eugene Omoruyi’s injury what it appeared? The junior forward went down early in the first half. Omoruyi stayed down on the floor, but eventually got to his feet and was helped to the locker room while receiving a standing ovation.
He didn’t return, and Pikiell later told Big Ten Network reporter Andy Katz that Omoruyi suffered a dislocated left kneecap. For any number of reasons, Omoruyi is not a guy the Scarlet Knights can afford to have out long term.
“I’ll go in there and try to find out what’s going, but I’m sure he’ll be seen tomorrow, and we’ll have to try and figure it out,” Pikiell said.
Recovery times for such an injury vary. Omoruyi suffered a dislocated kneecap last season and missed two weeks.
He entered the night leading Rutgers in both scoring (15.7 PPG) and rebounding (8.0 RPG). The Scarlet Knights are off until Saturday at Minnesota. They are then at Purdue on Tuesday before returning home to face Northwestern on Jan. 19.
3. Did I just think, ‘wow’ thank God Geo Baker didn’t have more shots! The Rutgers player, their most-important player, was 1-for-10 against Maryland, but, to the surprise of no one, certainly in Piscataway, he came back strong on Wednesday with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting in 37 minutes.
After Omoruyi went down, Baker noticeably took charge for the rest of the first half, looking for his shots and doing a nice job of quarterbacking the Scarlet Knights. This was the Baker who impressed many times over the season’s first 13 games. This was the Baker Rutgers is in need of more often as the Big Ten schedule moves forward.
“I need to stay aggressive,” Baker said. “I’ve had a little rough stretch, but I have great teammates, great coaches who continue to tell me to play my game. One of my roles is to be aggressive on offense, and I’m just happy some shots started falling tonight.”
One thing to criticize: Baker was 4-for-7 shooting in the first half, and then attempted just one second-half shot through the final media timeout. His only second-half make, a long step-back jumper with 13 seconds left, provided the final margin and caused the building to erupt – he needs more confidence, perhaps, and just shoot more. Trust me Geo, the NBA is looking.
4. The Buckeyes – I almost want to stay clear of this. But here we go. Kaleb Wesson led Ohio State with 18 points and seven rebounds while Luther Muhammad added 13 points and six boards. Muhammad led Ohio State with eight points in the first half while Baker scored 13 over the first 20 minutes. Wesson then scored the Buckeyes’ first 10 points of the second half to give Ohio State a 40-38 advantage with 15:42 left to play but Rutgers answered with a 10-0 run over the next 4:10 to regain a 48-38 advantage with 11:32 remaining. The Scarlet Knights extended their advantage to 55-45 on a Myles Johnson lay-up with 9:00 left but the Buckeyes were able to climb back in it, using back-to-back lay-ups from Muhammad and C.J. Jackson to eventually take a 61-58 lead with 2:37 to go. However, Rutgers held the Buckeyes scoreless the rest of the way, using two-straight Mathis lay-ups to take the lead before Baker hit a fade-away jumper with 13 seconds remaining to make it a 64-61 Rutgers lead. Jackson had a chance at a game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing in the final seconds but it caromed off the rim as the Scarlet Knights picked up the win.
What else can I say? Buckeyes lost. Rutgers won. I could say that the Buckeyes are a better team, and this shouldn’t have happened. I believe Rutgers even believes that. But there are no do-overs. It’s done. The Buckeyes are now 2-2 in BIG play with a two-game losing streak.
Iowa is up next.