Current Score: Ohio State 42, Rutgers 30
First, some storylines coming in:
In my opinion, the biggest questions going into this game all revolve around C.J. Walker's absence. Ohio State's senior point guard has torn ligaments in his right hand, and while he's been able to play through the pain all season, the injury has worsened to the point where he can't play right now.
So - Jimmy Sotos will start at point guard. Will he handle the ball exclusively? Will Duane Washington Jr. and Justice Sueing help initiate the offense at all? Does early-enrollee freshman Meechie Johnson make his collegiate debut against the Scarlet Knights?
The Buckeyes had their mid-week game against Penn State postponed, so they haven't been on the floor since losing to Minnesota last weekend. I would imagine they needed that time to get extra practice reps without Walker.
Meanwhile, Rutgers has dropped three of its last four games. After these two teams played a physical game two days before Christmas and the Buckeyes completely dominated on the glass, how would things fair on the glass today?
Jimmy Sotos drills two early 3-pointers, E.J. Liddell hit a pair of mid-range jumpers early on and Kyle Young had a hook shot bucket and a quick lay-in to get the OSU offense off to a great start. There was a pretty long stretch to open the game, as the first media timeout comes at the first stoppage under 16 minutes - that occurred at the 13:31 mark. Ohio State started with two missed shots before hitting seven in a row.
With 11:34 left in the first half, Meechie Johnson makes his highly anticipated Ohio State debut. You can read about his journey to Columbus here.
While none of them were Johnson's fault, the Buckeyes turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions to force Chris Holtmann to burn a timeout right after Johnson check in. Rutgers scored a few easy - and a couple ridiculously tough - buckets and went on a 10-0 run. But a couple nice 3-balls from E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington tied the game at 26-26 with 6:36 to go.
Myles Johnson set a bad screen with 6:19 left to go in the first half and picked up his second foul. That's definitely something to keep an eye on the rest of the way. Johnson is a really good post presence and after he spouted off on Twitter after the last time these two teams played, he certainly is playing with a chip on his shoulder today.
Ohio State responded with a 12-0 run, punctuated by a Washington 3-pointer with 4:55 to play in the half. It put the Bucks up 32-26 as Rutgers' defense looked sluggish. That 3-pointer made Ohio State 5-of-9 from deep in the first half (they'd miss one more before the break). Washington has 11 points so far, including three great 3-point shots.
E.J. Liddell is having a terrific game - 13 points in his first 12 minutes. He's helped the Buckeyes dominate the glass again in the first half. They've out-rebounded Rutgers 22-11 in the first half to go along with 54 percent shooting from the field.
It was all Buckeyes down the stretch. After going down 26-20 with 7:48 to play in the half, Ohio State closed the first period on a 22-4 run to take a 42-30 lead into the locker room.
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