Keyshawn Woods does not like to lose. The redshirt senior guard said he can name the teams Ohio State has lost to, keeps track of how the team lost, of how he performed in the loss.
Rutgers was one of the games he remembers.
Facing a much bigger Scarlet Knights team, the Buckeyes failed to navigate Rutgers’ zone defense, shooting 30.8 percent from 3, losing their first matchup of the season between the two teams 64-61 in Piscataway, New Jersey. This was the second game of a five-game losing streak for Ohio State.
Now, Ohio State will have a chance to gain a win against Rutgers at home, taking on the Scarlet Knights on Saturday.
Since their loss to Rutgers on Jan. 9, the Buckeyes have struggled in Big Ten play, losing four of its next five games, including a 65-49 loss to No. 5 Michigan on Tuesday, the worst loss of the season for the team.
“I think we understand what league play is about,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “The tough days aren’t over, just we are trying to dig in for the long haul and continue to improve and get better.”
Woods’ main approach for Saturday’s game is not to get revenge after the Buckeyes’ three-point loss earlier in the season. It’s the same approach he has for every game.
“It’s not a ‘I want to get back at you,’” Woods said. “It’s just so happens that Rutgers is our next opponent.”
Ohio State (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten)
G — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 12.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.8 apg
G — Musa Jallow — Sophomore, 3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.3 apg
G — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 9.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.9 apg
F — Andre Wesson — Junior, 8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 apg
F — Kaleb Wesson — Sophomore, 14.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.6 apg
Rutgers (11-9, 4-6 Big Ten)
G — Geo Baker — Sophomore, 13.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.1 apg
G — Montez Mathis — Freshman, 8.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
G/F — Ron Harper Jr. — Freshman, 6.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 apg
F — Eugene Omoruyi — Junior, 13.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.9 apg
C — Shaquille Doorson — Redshirt senior, 3.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.4 apg
As a team that has won its past three games against Nebraska, Penn State and Indiana respectively, Rutgers will look a bit different than it did against Ohio State when they last played each other.
Scarlet Knights junior forward Eugene Omoruyi suffered a dislocated left kneecap against the Buckeyes on Jan. 9, limiting him to seven minutes of play in the three-point Rutgers win. He did not return to the rotation until Jan. 21, scoring eight points and six rebounds in 26 minutes against Nebraska.
Holtmann called the junior forward a “terrific mismatch” and a problem for Ohio State.
The Ohio State head coach said Omoruyi is a prime example of the physicality Rutgers plays with, calling them one of the two most physical teams his team had faced all season, along with Michigan State.
Ohio State will continue to play without sophomore forward Kyle Young, a potential answer for Omoruyi and a physically larger Rutgers team.
Holtmann said, in Young’s absence, there have been limitations in replacing him, especially with size, something that could prove to be a big factor against the Scarlet Knights.
“I think we are going to have to play with tremendous effort because they are bigger at most every position,” Holtmann said. “I think we are going to have to play with great effort and great intelligence.”
Rutgers will also give Ohio State another look at a zone defense, something the Buckeyes had trouble with against the Scarlet Knights and in the next game against Iowa, connecting on 35.2 percent of 3-point attempts in those two games.
Woods said Ohio State has been working on playing against zone defenses in practice, despite seeing a stretch of teams that primarily play man.
Defensively, Ohio State will continue to have to defend sophomore guard Geo Baker, who made 5-of-11 from the field against the Buckeyes on Jan. 8, scoring 15 points with five rebounds and four assists.
Freshman guard Montez Mathis was the main thorn in the side of the Ohio State defense on their last matchup, connecting on 7-of-11 from the field with a team-leading 16 points.
Since the win against the Buckeyes, Mathis has scored double-digit points in four of six games, including a 20-point performance against the Cornhuskers.
Woods said Ohio State could have executed better in its previous matchup with the Scarlet Knights, and paid more attention to scouting reports in defending players like Baker or Omoruyi.
However, he said it’s the effort plays that set Rutgers apart.
“They are an effort team,” Woods said. “They get loose balls, they play hard, they try for second-chance shots. If we can beat them to all of those things, we are going to win the game on Saturday.”
After what Woods said have been “two great days of preparation,” he said Ohio State is more prepared for this game than it was last time.
“I don’t like losing,” Woods said. “Most players don’t, but I really don’t like losing. I also don’t like losing to a team more than once.”
Ohio State takes on Rutgers at home at noon on Saturday.