Undefeated No. 11 Rutgers and one-loss Ohio State go head to head Wednesday in a top 25 matchup to determine B1G supremacy.
TV Schedule: Wednesday, December 23rd, 4:30 PM ET. B1G Network
Arena: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio
The No. 11 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-0) are coming off their biggest win to date after defeating Illinois in the RAC this past weekend. After a slow start from Ron Harper Jr., who only had 6 points in the first half, their young star exploded lifting the team over the Illini and finishing the game with 28 points. Wednesday, Rutgers looks to keep their perfect season alive and continue to climb the polls by flying to Columbus and defeating No. 23 ranked Ohio State (6-1).
Rutgers should look to continue to keep feeding Ron Harper Jr. the basketball. Even though they have proven to have a great supporting cast and couldn’t have won their last game against Illinois without an entire team effort, Harper Jr. has proven to be the alpha since Geo Baker injured his ankle.
As the team slowly integrates Baker back into the rotation and eventually the starting lineup, Harper Jr. should still look to touch the basketball as much as possible. An offensive weapon that has come into his own, he has the ability to get hot, stay hot, and be reliable in crunch time. In his first six games Harper Jr. is averaging 24.0 points per game on 60% from the floor and 52.5% from three.
If Geo Baker is able to come back to the team fully healthy and ready to play at his highest level Rutgers may be able to not only walk out of Columbus with a win on Wednesday but remain undefeated for a long time. The program has been building back up by Steve Pikiell and they are finally reaping the benefits of long-overdue success.
Ohio State has also had an extremely impressive season so far and will look to pick up a win against a B1G rival and ranked opponent at home. The inability to have fans in attendance may make this game feel like a neutral site matchup from the outside looking in but the Buckeyes have been exceptional in Columbus this year.
Currently undefeated at home (4-0), Ohio State’s only loss all season came at the hands of Purdue while EJ Liddell was injured. Liddell has been averaging 14 and 7 for the Buckeyes this year and could be a major player in the upcoming matchup against Rutgers. At 6’7″ Liddell could play a major role in the game if Ohio State chooses to let him defend Harper Jr. as they are comparable in size and weight.
This is the matchup that could help determine the outcomes of the game. If Liddell is able to contribute on both ends of the floor and limit Harper Jr., Ohio State could end up defending their home court. If Liddell fails to contain Harper Jr., the Scarlet Knights could go wire to wire against the Buckeyes.
Overall, any conference game will be a hard-fought matchup. The Buckeyes play a more team-centric game and find their scoring from a deep rotation while the Rutgers rotation is smaller and leans on their stars to make the right decisions in crunch time. While this game is setting up to be one of the best games of the day, it already seems the outcome is predetermined.
Rutgers as a team and Harper Jr. as their star are both on fire right now. As Geo Baker continues to get healthy his ability to contribute will only rise and it feels like there is nothing that can stop Rutgers from charging up the polls. They demand to be respected, and basketball needs New Jersey, so don’t expect them to go away any time soon.
Prediction: Rutgers 73 – Ohio State 65