After having its three-game win streak snapped against Purdue on Wednesday, the Ohio State mens basketball team is trying to get back on track.
The Buckeyes are set to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the first time as members of the Big Ten on Sunday night in Piscataway, N.J,. once again without sophomore forward Marc Loving.
Loving, who was suspended and did not travel with the team to Purdue will not make the trip to Rutgers, although he is still practicing with the team, coach Thad Matta said.
In addition, Matta said the suspension was handed down from the athletic department, rather than from him.
With Loving out for the foreseeable future, Matta said the Buckeyes simply need to execute and dictate the pace of the game.
“Honestly (I) haven’t made a ton of changes,” Matta said Saturday. “We haven’t done anything drastically different in terms of our offensive scheme or anything like that. We needed more push (against Purdue), we weren’t running the floor as hard as we should have been running the floor.”
Since Loving was pulled from the starting lineup after a Jan. 17 loss to Iowa, freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate was inserted and lost his first game as a starter against the Boilermakers.
Tate said with Loving out, his role doesn’t change, but it expands.
“Now, I have to take more looks that I get. I think last game I took two three’s, wide open. I had good looks, they just didn’t fall,” Tate said Saturday. “I gotta continue to just keep shooting with confidence and hope they fall.”
Despite still practicing with the team, Loving is set to miss his second straight game, something senior guard Shannon Scott said the Buckeyes are going to have to adjust to.
“We just know that we have to just keep playing as a team and we have his support and he has our support as well so whenever we do get him back, we get him back and we’ll be a great team,” Scott said. “But right now, we gotta play without him.”
Loving’s absence was noticeable in Wednesday’s loss to the Boilermakers as the Buckeyes shot just 4-of-15 from behind the arc, which has been Loving’s strength all season.
Coming into that game against Purdue, Loving was the Big Ten’s leader in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 53.2 percent from long range.
Now, without Loving, the Buckeyes are looking to get their spacing back and Matta said redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams could be the answer.
“In the first half (of the Purdue game) Kam was just out there,” Matta said. “We talked at halftime and said, ‘Hey look, you’ve got to create, you’ve got to find opportunities to shoot the basketball.”
Matta mentioned another freshman, forward Keita Bates-Diop, as someone who will need to pick up the slack with Loving out.
“He (Bates-Diop) has been very good in practice the past couple days, and we are pushing him to just say, ‘Hey, you gotta take the bull by the horns and you gotta get out of the back seat and get into the front seat and make things happen,’” Matta said. “Hopefully he is another guy, along with Kam that can help stretch the defense.”
The Scarlet Knights come into Sunday’s game having lost seven straight games, with their last win coming at home against then No. 4 Wisconsin, 67-62.
Rutgers is led by senior guard Myles Mack who ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring with 14.5 points per game.
The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights are set to tip off at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.