PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Ohio State used a 22-4 run to close the first half to take a commanding lead it held on the way to a 79-68 win at No. 15 Rutgers Saturday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Ohio State made 10 3s in the game with six players connecting on at least one from distance. Duane Washington Jr. made 4-of-8 3 attempts on his way to a team-high 17 points in the win.
Freshman Zed Key contributed eight points and six rebounds off the bench. Junior Justice Sueing tallied 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. It was Sueing’s second career double-double and his first at Ohio State.
Ohio State improved to 9-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten. Rutgers fell to 7-4, 3-4. The Buckeyes are 10-3 all-time vs. the Scarlet Knights, including a 4-1 record in Piscataway. Chris Holtmann is 5-1 vs. Rutgers as head coach of the Buckeyes.
Liddell led the Buckeyes with 13 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting. He also added three blocks and a pair of rebounds over the first 20 minutes.
Jimmy Sotos made his second start of the season and responded with a couple early made 3s, two rebounds, a pair of assists and a steal in 15 first-half minutes.
Ohio State returns to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home vs. Northwestern. The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann
Opening statement: “I’ve got a lot of respect for this Rutgers team. To come here, pandemic or not, and win on the road, was big. Anytime you win and beat a program the caliber of Rutgers, what Steve (Pikiell) has. He’s done an amazing job here. He’s got really good players, terrifically coached. I thought playing a top-15 team anywhere, you got to start well early, and we started well early. I give that starting group a lot of credit. They really started well early and gave us some life. We didn’t finish the game like we need to, that’s my fault, but we certainly played well for large stretches.”
On Jimmy Sotos: “I don’t want to get specific on it right now. I think as much as anything he’s really disappointed just because of what he felt like, how he was playing. I think he wanted to continue that. So we’ll get him all the tests, evaluate and we’ll know more here in a couple of days.”
On guard play: “I thought (Jimmy Sotos) played really well. I thought he defended well. I thought he created offense with his ability to get in the lane. I thought his decision making was good. I thought Justice’s (Sueing) decision making was good as well. But I thought Jimmy settled us a lot of ways and he was able to keep their guards in front. I was really, really pleased. He dove for the ball, made an effort play there, hit the shoulder pretty good. But yeah, I was really pleased with the rhythm that that group played with on both ends.”
On defense: “I thought defensively we were good, we were pretty locked in there. Their twisting of ball screens bothered us a little bit. They got downhill. (Jacob) Young got downhill a lot. They’ve got a lot of guys who can make shots, a lot of guys you can get to the rim. And obviously, you Ron Harper Jr., who’s a tremendous talent at the four spot. I think we had to hang our hat there. To me, the biggest play in the game was our ability to score. When we were having trouble scoring and E.J. (Liddell) making that pass to Kyle (Ahrens), a little bit on the post trap. They were switching the defense a little bit, they were going zone to man, that bothered us a little bit, particularly without, without Jimmy in there. But I thought E.J. made a great pass great decision that gave us a little bit of a breather there with a couple minutes to go.”
On physicality: “I think this league presents a lot of different styles, a lot of different ways in which teams play, the way in which they defend you sometimes defend you completely differently. If you’re going to be a good team, you have to be able to play and attack people differently offensively and defensively in your system. I just think in general, certainly their physicality bothered us at Minnesota, but we also didn’t attack them as well as we needed to, and that’s my fault. I thought today our guys got into a good rhythm, but we made some shots too, don’t want to overthink it. We were able to make some shots, which makes such a huge difference.”