PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Ohio State opened the season without much expectation. Making the Top 25 and leading the Big Ten surely wasn’t anticipated.
Now, when the new weekly rankings come out, the Buckeyes will likely have both.
“We had talked about it a little bit,” first-year coach Chris Holtmann said. “We talked about it a little bit when we beat (then No. 1) Michigan State because I think that alerted people.”
Keita Bates-Diop scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Ohio State beat Rutgers 68-46 to remain undefeated in Big Ten play.
Ohio State (15-4, 6-0) built a 30-point lead after Kam Williams converted a four-point play with 13:47 remaining to make it 48-18.
Kaleb Wesson had 10 points and nine rebounds and Williams finished with 11 points for Ohio State.
Rutgers led 9-8 after Eugene Omoruyi made a layup at the 10:46 mark. Ohio State closed the half on a 19-6 run to take a 28-15 lead into half.
Rutgers was led by guards Geo Baker (14 points) and Corey Sanders (13 points).
However, Rutgers was without its third guard and sixth man, Mike William. The senior captain was sidelined after injuring his leg in practice Saturday. He sat out the game with his right foot wrapped and was using crutches.
“Mike hurt his leg badly. We don’t have the full diagnosis yet, they’re still working on that,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s going to be out, he’s going to be out for a while. But Mike has been a really important player. I feel bad for him. It’s his senior year, but those things happen and other guys have to be ready to step up and take advantage of his minutes. We certainly have to figure that out quickly here. Having this happen with 10 minutes left in practice yesterday doesn’t give you a lot of time to figure it out, so now we have a couple of days to figure it out before Iowa.”
So while Rutgers’ season could be at a crossroads, Ohio State’s could continue to surprise.
“I keep coming back to the fact that we’ve only played one third of the Big Ten right now, so there’s a lot left to be played,” Holtmann said. “But we will talk about the fact that, hey, we’re going to have some people — we’re going to have to play with a different edge. Home, road, doesn’t matter. We’ll see if we’re good enough to manage that.”
OHIO STATE: Holtmann is the first Big Ten coach to start 6-0 in conference play since Tom Davis at Iowa in 1986. Ohio State is expected to be ranked in the upcoming AP poll after defeating No. 4 Michigan State – which was No. 1 at the time— by 16 and drubbing Maryland. The Buckeyes received 29 votes in the last poll, which would have ranked them 29th. They are tied for first in the Big Ten with No. 5 Purdue.
RUTGERS: The Scarlet Knights have lost five of six after starting the season 11-3. With Williams out, a bench that is not known for its depth will come into focus, which will make wins even harder to come by.
“We have to play with or without Mike,” Pikiell said. “Mike has been, from Day 1, a fighter. But again, with or without Mike, we need to play better basketball. Playing Ohio State and teams like that, but Mike’s a leader. He’s a captain. He grabbed nine rebounds against Michigan State. He’s our leading rebounder at 6-2. He’s an overachiever. Mike is certainly a huge loss for us, but again, we have to play better. Every guy has to step up their game a little more now with Mike not being around.”
Rutgers has had trouble shooting free throws (62 percent) and 3-pointers (29 percent) throughout the season. Against Ohio State, Rutgers struggled shooting, period. The Scarlet Knights hit just 29 percent from the field, below their average of 42. They went 6-of-18 from the foul line.
Rebound for glory
Rutgers came into the game ranked fifth in the country in rebounding with 42.44 a game. The Buckeyes made sure they didn’t get beat on the boards, edging Rutgers 46-30 on the glass.
OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes are at Northwestern on Wednesday night.
RUTGERS: The Scarlet Knights face Iowa at home.
Ohio State 68, Rutgers 46
OHIO STATE (15-4): Bates-Diop 8-19 2-3 20, K.Wesson 4-8 2-4 10, Tate 3-6 0-0 6, K.Williams 4-5 1-1 11, Jackson 3-9 2-2 9, Young 2-2 0-0 4, A.Wesson 1-2 0-0 3, Potter 1-3 0-0 3, Dakich 1-3 0-0 2, Jallow 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 7-10 68.
RUTGERS (11-8): Freeman 1-12 0-0 2, Doucoure 0-0 0-0 0, Baker 5-15 0-0 14, Sanders 6-14 0-0 13, Thiam 2-9 0-0 5, Omoruyi 2-5 5-6 9, Sa 0-1 0-1 0, Doorson 1-1 0-2 2, Mensah 0-2 1-2 1, Dadika 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-59 6-11 46.
Halftime—Ohio State 28-15. 3-Point Goals—Ohio State 7-21 (K.Williams 2-3, Bates-Diop 2-7, Potter 1-1, A.Wesson 1-2, Jackson 1-5, Dakich 0-1, K.Wesson 0-1, Jallow 0-1), Rutgers 6-18 (Baker 4-8, Sanders 1-3, Thiam 1-4, Freeman 0-3). Fouled Out—Tate. Rebounds—Ohio State 40 (Bates-Diop, K.Wesson 9), Rutgers 29 (Sa, Doorson 6). Assists—Ohio State 14 (Jackson 6), Rutgers 6 (Sanders 3). Total Fouls—Ohio State 18, Rutgers 10. A—7,476 (8,000).