PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Thad Matta felt his Ohio State team had higher intensity in its morning practice than in its afternoon game, but that did not stop the Buckeyes from controlling the majority of play against Rutgers.
Keita Bates-Diop tied a career-high with 24 points and had a career-high 14 rebounds as Ohio State defeated Rutgers, 79-69 on Saturday.
''This is first team I've ever had in 16 years as a head coach that actually practiced harder this morning at shoot-around at 9 o'clock, than we played in the game today, for whatever reason,'' Matta said. ''But we got what we came for and that was the win. We did not play smart today.''
Jae'Sean Tate added 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting and 13 rebounds for the Buckeyes (16-10, 8-5 Big Ten), marking the sixth time this season they have had two players with double-doubles. Kam Williams added 19 for OSU, which kept its flickering NCAA hopes alive with a second straight victory.
Williams, who hit four 3-pointers in the second half, feels OSU must focus on the moment at hand, rather than the tournament.
''We know we've got to keep chipping away every day in practice and if we keep having good practices we obviously need to translate it over to the game,'' he said. ''It's a game-by-game mentality. We can't look to a game two weeks ahead.''
Corey Sanders had 23 points for the Scarlet Knights (6-19, 0-12), who have lost 26 straight Big Ten games and 27 including the conference tournament. Mike Williams added 13 and D.J. Foreman had 10.
Ohio State opened two 16-point leads, the second at 52-36. Rutgers scored nine straight to get within seven, but could get no closer the remainder of the game.
''We executed our offense,'' Bates-Diop said. ''It seemed like every time we needed it, Kam was making a 3, or someone was making a free throw.''
The first half featured runs by each team, with Bates-Diop's 14 points helping OSU to a 35-26 lead.
With Rutgers making just 3 of its first 21 shots, OSU went on a 20-2 run for a 22-6 lead. The Scarlet Knights then scored 13 straight to close the margin to three, before a 13-2 run put Ohio State up 35-21. Rutgers scored the final five of the half to get within 35-26.
It was a marked change from the first time the teams met in Columbus, when Rutgers held a 41-39 lead at halftime before losing by 26.
Ohio State shot 61.5 percent (16 of 26) in the second half to finish 51 percent for the game, despite the fact leading scorer Marc Loving was held scoreless. The Scarlet Knights hit just 38.5 percent (25 of 65) against a Buckeyes defense that was third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (.393).
''It was probably as cold inside as it was outside for us today,'' Scarlet Knights coach Eddie Jordan said. ''We didn't make many shots. We had open looks, we had quality possessions, we couldn't make lay-ups, we didn't finish to start the game.''
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are 139-51 all-time when two players record double-doubles in the same game. ... Evan Turner, the 2010 National Player of the Year and current Boston Celtic, will be the fourth Buckeye to have his number (21) retired during halftime of Tuesday's home game with Michigan. ... Ohio State has won three straight against Rutgers and leads the series 3-1.
Rutgers: Trent Harris, the 3-year old son of former Rutgers football player and current Cincinnati Bengals long snapper Clark Harris, sang the national anthem. ... At halftime, the Scarlet Knights honored the women's soccer team, which reached the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history.
Ohio State hosts Michigan Tuesday.
Rutgers is at Illinois Tuesday.