E.J. Liddell missed two games with what Ohio State described as a non-COVID-19 illness. The Buckeyes lost one of those games. But the 6-foot-7 forward is healthy and back in the lineup now. And he played a major role in OSU overcoming a 16-point second-half deficit Wednesday en route to an eventual 80-68 victory over Rutgers inside Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes outscored Rutgers 48-20 in the final 15 minutes.
They scored 52 points in the second half.
“That was a heckuva win,” said Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, who seems well on his way to a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. “We had to be really resilient. We put ourselves in a bind — and some of that was [caused by] how well Rutgers was playing. But players win games. And our guys responded.”
Liddell took 14 shots against Rutgers, made eight of them and finished with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes. The sophomore from Illinois is now the Buckeyes’ second-leading scorer (15.3. points per game) and second-leading rebounder (6.5 rebounds per game). So he’s undeniably important — evidence being how Ohio State is 6-0 with him this season, just 1-1 without him.
The Buckeyes are No. 16 in Thursday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. Ohio State jumping from 20th to 16th pushed Michigan State, Duke and Michigan down one spot each, no fault of their own. OSU’s next scheduled game is Saturday at Northwestern, which is 2-0 in the Big Ten after Wednesday’s 74-67 upset of Indiana.
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