Turnovers and Kaleb Wesson fouls.
These were the areas that have continually caused trouble for Ohio State, and two of the main reasons the Buckeyes have lost six of their past seven games.
Against Rutgers, the sophomore forward and Ohio State’s leading scorer returned to form, scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including three 3s, to lead the Buckeyes to a 76-62 win against the Scarlet Knights.
“The game today was, I think a complete game for us in a lot of ways,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “Obviously Kaleb gave us a great lift there offensively … it was a good win.”
Coming into the game, Wesson had 21 personal fouls and 13 made baskets in his past five games.
On Saturday, Wesson scored 21 of his points in the first half, including the first 12 overall points for the Buckeyes and 19 of their first 24, finishing the half with zero fouls.
The rest of the team scored 16 points and shot 5-of-19 in the first 20 minutes.
“It’s been a tough stretch of games,” Wesson said. “I haven’t been scoring a lot, it just felt good to finally let the ball go in the rim, and my teammates finding me, it felt real good.”
As Wesson’s foul trouble went away — Wesson didn’t record his first foul until more than 10 minutes into the second half — so did the turnover issues. A game after Ohio State recorded 19 turnovers against Michigan, the Buckeyes committed six turnovers, and zero in the first half.
Ohio State’s first turnover of the game came 2:26 into the second half.
“Last couple games, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot just having a lot of turnovers ,” senior guard C.J. Jackson said. “We have to do a little extra conditioning for turning the ball over, so I think that helped translate to today.”
Kaleb Wesson found ways to stay in the game and out of foul trouble, but his brother didn’t.
Junior forward Andre Wesson fouled out with 6:43 to go in the second half, finishing the game with five points, three rebounds and two assists on 1-of-6 shooting in 26 minutes.
After holding the Scarlet Knights to 40.7 percent shooting and 25 percent from 3 in the first half, Rutgers found some space in the second half, shooting 13-of-28 overall.
“I did not think we were as alert or as active defensively as we need to be, and that’s a concern for me,” Holtmann said. “Obviously our shot making can cover up some things, and we made 13 3s, and I think our guys took great shots and our guys screened well, and the quality of shot was a high level.”
Ohio State maintained control in the second half through its offense, led mainly by Jackson.
Jackson led the team with a plus-22, and finished the game with 20 points, shooting 57.1 percent from the field. 17 of his points came in the second half on 7-of-11 shooting.
“We just wanted to stay aggressive, we wanted to come out and finish the 40 minutes that we always talk about,” Jackson said. “I looked to be a little bit more aggressive in the second half than in the first half, and my teammates found me in great positions.”
Rutgers gained the lead early on in the game, scoring four layups to take an 8-4 lead. From there, the Buckeyes went on an 18-3 run to go up 22-11, a lead they didn’t give up for the rest of the game.
Rebounding was an issue for Ohio State throughout the game, with Rutgers outrebounding the Buckeyes 21-12 in the first half, and finishing with a 36-25 advantage on the glass.
Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi led the Scarlet Knights in major categories, scoring 19 points, and six assists, also adding eight rebounds.
Freshman guard Luther Muhammad and redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods were the other two Buckeyes to finish the game in double figures, scoring 11 and 12 points, respectively.
The victory is the fifth-best win for Ohio State thus far, according to KenPom.com, with Minnesota, UCLA, Creighton and Cincinnati being the teams ranked higher.
Ohio State takes on Penn State at home at 7 p.m. on Thursday.