No. 25 Ohio State will look to recent experiences to handle defensive stalwart Rutgers when it hosts the Scarlet Knights in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday.
Rutgers (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) leads the nation in 3-point defense (20.6 percent) and is sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
In a 63-48 win over No. 14 Indiana on Saturday, the Scarlet Knights held the Hoosiers to their fewest points since they scored 44 against Texas on Dec. 1, 2020. Rutgers limited the Hoosiers to 30.4 percent shooting from the field.
“They’re disruptive,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “They turn you over. They’re great on the offensive and defensive glass. They’re long. They’re physical. They have a terrific big (Clifford Omoruyi) who is now growing into his own as a third-year player and they’ve got great positional size and length.
“I think they’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, certainly one of the best we’ll play.”
The Buckeyes (6-2, 0-0) know all about tough defenses, having already played three teams in the top 30 in adjusted defensive efficiency. They defeated Texas Tech but lost to San Diego State and Duke.
“The most Big Ten-like team we played was probably San Diego State, maybe Texas Tech too, in terms of the physical, older bodies,” Holtmann said. “San Diego State was so old and so physical that it did remind me a lot of a Big Ten team. I think that experience was really good.”
Rutgers has gotten big contributions from Omoruyi, who leads the team in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (9.8) while averaging 29.3 minutes. He is particularly effective in the paint, with 19 dunks this season (2.4 per game) while shooting 50.5 percent from the field.
The Scarlet Knights got a boost vs. Indiana with the return of usual starting point guard Paul Mulcahy, after he missed four games with a shoulder injury. He was eased back into the lineup, scoring six points and dishing four assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
“I was so excited,” he said. “It’s been tough. I’ve never missed anything in my life. It has been a tough couple of weeks, but I have been looking at it in a different perspective. I was always proud to be able to say I have played every role for this team. Being injured wasn’t one of them. Now I know how to help guys if they are ever in my position.”
The game could come down to freshmen.
Rutgers’ Derek Simpson scored all 14 of his points in the second half against Indiana, including eight straight during a 19-0 run that put the game away.
Meanwhile, during a 96-59 win over St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday, freshmen Brice Sensabaugh (15 points), Bruce Thornton (13), Roddy Gayle Jr. (12) and Felix Okpara (10) scored in double figures for the Buckeyes.
Sensabaugh leads Ohio State with 14.3 points per game while averaging 17.8 minutes.
The teams are meeting for the first time since Rutgers won 66-64 at home last season by scoring the final 10 points in the last 3:49 of the game.
–Field Level Media