It sounds odd to say this, because CoVID-19 has been an omnipresent foe this year. But you could make a case that Ohio State was facing more adversity on Saturday than at any point this season.
Without senior point guard and minutes-leader C.J. Walker to guide them against the No. 15 team in the country, Ohio State only had two healthy guards with any real game experience on the roster - and one of them left the game with an injury in the second half.
Then there was the knowledge that Rutgers was coming in throwing haymakers.
Myles Johnson stoked the flames for today's game immediately after the Buckeyes hammered Rutgers a couple weeks ago, when he took to Twitter and essentially claimed that the Buckeyes had paid off the referees and that when they met today their wouldn't be any cheap fouls called (he deleted both tweets fairly quickly).
So how did the antagonized Buckeyes respond?
By bullying the Scarlet Knights for 40 minutes.
The Buckeyes really missed Walker's leadership down the stretch, but once 22-point lead was too much for Rutgers to overcome. Ohio State got back to .500 in Big Ten play with a 79-68 win on Saturday.
E.J. Liddell, Duane Washington Jr. and Kyle Young led the Buckeyes offensively in a wire-to-wire dominant performance. All three of them had career-high performances 17 days ago in their first matchup this season and each played with incredible effort again this afternoon.
And while it wasn't a perfect day, Ohio State absolutely had one of its gutsiest performances of the season.
The Buckeyes gave up a 3-pointer with 7:46 left in the first half to fall behind 26-20. But they ripped off a convincing 22-4 run the rest of the first half
Ohio State didn't let up coming out of the locker room either. They began the second half on a 13-4 run, bolstered by 3-pointers from Washington and Young. It put them up 21 points, 55-34 with 14:54 to play.
But the Scarlet Knights are ranked No. 15 in the country for a reason and they weren't going to go away quietly. Rutgers was able to cut the deficit to 67-57 over a 5-minute stretch when Ohio State hit just 1-of-8 from the floor. C.J. Walker's absence during that stretch was particularly notable.
Unfortunately, it got worse for Ohio State.
Jimmy Sotos dove for a loose ball before the final scheduled media timeout and appeared to injure his shoulder. Two athletic training staff members had to assist Sotos to the locker room.
So right out of that break, the Buckeyes went to Kyle Young for the most emphatic dunk of the night. Washington followed with a layup on the following possession and Ohio State withstood a late push from the Knights.
All three aforementioned Buckeyes finished in double figures offensively, led by 17 points from Duane Washington. Justice Sueing quietly had his second career double-double (first at Ohio State) with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Ohio State freshman Meechie Johnson made his highly anticipated collegiate debut this afternoon.
Myles Johnson probably wasn't happy with the foul discrepancy in the second matchup either. Ohio State shot 19-of-28 from the line, while Rutgers only hit only 5-of-10. The Buckeyes also dominated the glass 43-29.
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