The 11th-seeded Ohio State men’s basketball team lost to 14-seed Rutgers 66-57 in the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night, closing the door on any hopes the Buckeyes had left of making the NCAA Tournament — and possibly closing the door on their season, as well.
With the loss, Ohio State falls to 17-15 on the season following a 7-11 run in Big Ten play. The last-place Scarlet Knights (15-17, 3-15) advance to face 6-seed Northwestern on Thursday.
How it happened
Opening the game on an 11-3 run in the first 5 minutes, Ohio State got off to a strong start. But the Buckeyes failed to maintain consistency through the remainder of the half and surrendered the lead at 18-17 lead on a Nigel Johnson jumper at the 9:16 mark.
The Buckeyes quickly bounced back as a Trevor Thompson dunk capped a 6-0 OSU run, but the Scarlet Knights then scored 7 straight points of their own. A C.J. Jackson 3-pointer gave the Buckeyes a 26-25 advantage with 2:47 remaining in the first half as Ohio State closed the stanza on a 9-4 run to take a 32-29 lead into the locker room.
It wouldn’t take long for Rutgers to regain the lead, opening the second half on a 5-0 run before stretching its advantage to 6 on an Issa Thiam 3 at the 17:15 mark. It didn’t help the Buckeyes’ cause that they missed 8 of their first 12 free-throw attempts.
After a 1-for-5 start from the charity stripe, Jae’Sean Tate would make 3 consecutive freebies before a Marc Loving 3 at the 13:45 mark finally accounted for Ohio State’s first field goal of the half and tied the contest at 39-39.
Neither team managed to gain more than a 2-point advantage for the next 6 minutes until a Deshawn Freeman tip-in gave Rutgers a 51-48 lead at the 7:40 mark, then Candido Sa stretched the Scarlet Knights lead to 5 with a lay-in off an offensive rebound 56 seconds later.
A C.J. Gettys lay-in gave Rutgers a 55-49 advantage with 6 minutes remaining, but Buckeyes guard JaQuan Lyle scored 4 straight points to cut OSU’s deficit to 2 with 3:18 remaining in the game. Johnson would push the Scarlet Knights’ advantage back to 5 with a 3-pointer a minute later.
The Buckeyes wouldn’t get any closer than 4 points for the remainder of the game as Rutgers closed the contest out at the free-throw line.
What it means for Ohio State basketball
In need of a deep run this week to even get back on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s bubble, the Buckeyes will find themselves on the outside of the Big Dance for a second straight season. On Monday, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said he wasn’t sure if the Buckeyes would accept a bid to the NIT.
At this point, it remains unclear whether or not Ohio State will even receive such invitation.
Tate scored 18 points and pulled down 6 rebounds, but he also committed 7 turnovers. Jackson joined him in double-digit scoring with 12 points.
Lyle shot 1 of 8 from the field and scored just 5 points, the same total Loving scored on 2-of-7 shooting in what could very well be the final game of his college career.
Unless the Buckeyes receive — and decide to accept — a bid to the NIT (or another lesser postseason tournament), their 2016-17 season is officially over.