Rutgers shows they can compete in tight loss to Ohio State
For most of this season, Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Eddie Jordan has preached two points of emphasis to his team – compete and learn.
While the first point has not always been evident in games this season, this young batch of Scarlet Knights have learned a great deal about playing through adversity.
In the midst of an 11-game losing streak and a conference losing streak dating back to last season, the Knights have often struggled to compete with their Big Ten opponents.
With Ohio State visiting the Rutgers Athletic Center on Saturday, the Knights had a chance to prove they could compete with the team that blew them out by 26 points when they met a month ago.
The Knights were not able to pull off the potential upset, and lost to the Buckeyes 79-69. But even with the loss, the Knights (6-19, 0-12) proved to their head coach and fan base that they could hang with Ohio State (16-10, 8-5) and the best of the Big Ten.
With the way this game started, it appeared that Rutgers was headed for yet another blowout against a conference opponent.
The Knights opened the game shooting 3-18 from the field, and were down 20-6 midway through the first half. But Rutgers ramped up its team defense, leading to easy opportunities on the offensive end.
The Knights clawed their way back to a nine-point deficit to end the first half.
The lead was too much to overcome in the second however, as Ohio State maintained a 10-point advantage for much of the final 20 minutes of the game to seal the victory.
But after its 26-point defeat last month to the Buckeyes, losing by 10 can only be seen as an improvement for the Knights.
The biggest reason for the competitiveness from Rutgers in this game began and ended with its freshman star Corey Sanders.
Sanders has been on a roll recently, averaging 30 points per game in his last three contests. Against the Buckeyes, Sanders totaled 23 points on 10-19 shooting to go along with two rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Every time Ohio State went on a run against the Knights, it was Sanders who found a way to keep his team close.
But the freshman point guard could not do it all, and the lack of secondary scoring options for Rutgers came back to haunt them again today against Ohio State.
Sophomore guard Mike Williams poured in 13 points and sophomore forward D.J. Foreman added 10 points, but the Knights did not get substantial contributions from anyone else.
On the other hand, Ohio State had three players score more than 15 points, and the trio of Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, and Kam Williams carried the Buckeyes to victory.
For the Knights, their improved play comes at the best time of the season. Its next opponent, Illinois, was taken to three overtimes before they defeated Rutgers. The heightened competiveness, along with the stellar play of Sanders, will make for another tight game Wednesday night.
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