Ohio State and 15th-ranked Rutgers face each other for the second time this season this Saturday.
TV Schedule: Saturday, January 9, 12 pm ET. Big Ten Network
Arena: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey
Rutgers held a 48-32 lead over Ohio State with 15:36 remaining in the December 23 matchup between the two teams. It seemed as if Rutgers was heading towards a 7-0 record and a huge road win over nationally-ranked Ohio State.
However, as big man Myles Johnson fouled out with 8:46 remaining and an 8-point Rutgers lead, the Scarlet Knights were left with a depleted frontcourt, and it was all downhill from there. Ohio State ended the final 8 minutes on a 29-9 run and walked away with an 80-68 victory over the 11th-ranked Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) has lost three of its last four games, including the first Ohio State meeting. In its last game this past Tuesday, Rutgers was simply embarrassed by Michigan State in East Lansing, 68-45. It was a poor performance on all accounts for the Scarlet Knights, shooting 30.5% from the field, 3-for-12 from three, and going 6-for-17 from the charity stripe.
Despite its poor performance against Michigan State, Rutgers still ranks in the top-45 nationally in both offensive and defensive adjusted efficiency. There have been few players in the entire Big Ten playing better than junior guard Ron Harper Jr. Harper has averaged 21.1 PPG and 6.4 RPG and has recently been named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List. His 46.8% mark from beyond the arc has spearheaded a Rutgers offense that leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage in conference play.
Jacob Young (15.2 PPG, 4.8 APG) and Montez Mathis (14.1 PPG) have also helped Rutgers form one of the Big Ten’s most dynamic backcourts. Myles Johnson will once again have to man the majority of the workload at center while freshman Clifford Omoruyi seems likely to miss his fifth straight game with a knee injury.
Ohio State (8-3, 2-3 Big Ten) is looking to avoid a 1-3 stretch heading into Saturday’s game. Similar to Rutgers, Ohio State is coming off of a blowout loss to a nationally-ranked team. Minnesota beat Ohio State 77-60, holding the Buckeyes to a 31.1% clip from the field.
So far this season, Ohio State has ranked 10th in the nation in offensive adjusted efficiency and has smothered the offensive glass, holding the 2nd best offensive rebounding percentage in conference play. Junior guard Duane Washington Jr. has led the way for the Buckeyes this season, averaging 14.9 PPG. Sophomore forward E.J. Liddell has also proven to be a force inside for Ohio State, putting up 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per night.
Look for the Buckeyes to continue to take the ball inside and try to draw fouls on Rutgers’ Myles Johnson. With a thin frontcourt and foul trouble proving to be the difference-maker the last time these two met, there is reason to believe Ohio State should take advantage of that.
I think we will see a motivated Rutgers team seeking revenge at home and break out of the mini-slump they are going through.
Prediction: Rutgers 73, Ohio State 69