COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)Rutgers and Ohio State are prime examples of how difficult it is on win on the road in the Big Ten this year.
Rutgers, 1-4 on the road in conference games coming into the Wednesday night contest against Ohio State, climbed back from a 20-point deficit early in the second half but faltered down the stretch and fell to the Buckeyes 72-66.
Ohio State (16-7, 6-7 Big Ten) has been a different team at Value City but nearly let it get away late.
”They’re not going to look pretty, but a win is a win in the (Big) 10,” said Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson, who had 16 points, while his older brother Andre added 13 to go along with 10 rebounds.
Ohio State led by 15 at the half and went up by 20 on an E.J. Liddell basket with 13:05 left in the game. The Scarlet Knights chipped away, with Geo Baker hitting a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to get them within 3 points. But they ran out of time, with Andre Wesson hitting a foul shot and then CJ Walker hitting a pair with 12 seconds left to put it away.
Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. each added 10 points as the Buckeyes, who were ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll before tanking last month, bounced back from a loss at Wisconsin on Sunday and has now won three of the last four.
Jacob Young had 17 and Baker 13 for Rutgers (17-8, 8-6), which is having its best season in years under coach Steve Pikiell but, like Ohio State, has been inconsistent and taken its lumps on the road. The team’s top three scorers came off the bench in this one.
”I thought Ohio State was the more physical basketball team,” Pikiell said. ”You can’t spot a team that’s well-coached and has good players 15 points at halftime. So we got down 20, we fought back there good. Give them a lot of credit. You have to play 40 minutes in this league.”
Ohio State led 45-30 at the intermission on the strength of a couple of late 3-pointers, from Andre Wesson and Justin Ahrens, who was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc in the half coming off the bench.
”Sometimes you’ve got to survive games like this,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. ”You’ve got to make just enough plays, and we did that. And it’s a credit to the guys.”
Rutgers: Struggling on the road like most of the rest of the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights got in a hole early and couldn’t quite catch up despite the surge at the end. The Scarlet Knights shot 48.1% in the second half and 45.8% for the game.
Ohio State: A strange season, indeed. The Buckeyes bounced back big from a listless loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. They let Rutgers climb back in but held on.
”I think the biggest thing is trying to put a full 40 minutes together,” Kaleb Wesson said. ”I think the first 25 minutes we were competing, playing hard, sharing the ball and it kind of got away from that a little bit.”
Kaleb Wesson went 3 for 3 from 3-point range and has scored in double figures in 21 of the last 24 games. Andre Wesson, the team’s lone senior, got his first double-double of the season. His 10 rebounds against Rutgers tied a career high.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he’s not terribly concerned with his team allowing Rutgers to come back from a big deficit.
”I don’t even look at it like that,” he said. ”It’s too hard to win in this league.”
Rutgers: Hosts No. 22 Illinois on Saturday.
Ohio State: Hosts Purdue on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy