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Russell’s triple-double carries Ohio State past Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Playing in front of 22 NBA scouts and personnel, including four from the New York Knicks, D’Angelo Russell recorded the first triple-double by a freshman in Ohio State history, leading the No. 20 Buckeyes to a 79-60 win over Rutgers on Sunday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Russell, a combo guard from Louisville, Ky., and the top freshman scorer in the country, scored 23 points, dished out a season-best 11 assists and pulled down 11 rebounds. He scored in double figures for the 23rd time in 24 games.

He is the third player to register a triple-double for Ohio State (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten), joining Dennis Hopson and Evan Turner, and the first triple-double by a Big Ten player since Michigan State’s Draymond Green on March 6, 2012 against LIU.

Russell, who was 8 of 13 from the field, entered the game averaging 19.4 points a game. His 22nd consecutive double-figure scoring output is the most by a Buckeyes freshman since Jared Sullinger recorded a 17-game streak in 2010-11. The only time Russell didn’t hit double digits was against Marquette in the second game of the season.

A projected lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft, Russell wasn’t fazed by the attention aimed at him.

“I’m too keyed up for the next practice, the next film (session),” he said. “I feel I have been flirting with it (triple-double) all year.

“I feel like I’m a rebounder. When I get the rebound, I can start the break.”

Russell may feel like a rebounder, but his ability to distribute and score and overall court sense impressed Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan, a former guard in the NBA.

“I’ve watched him (Russell) on tape and the more I watched him, the less sleep I got,” Jordan remarked. “He’s calm, he sees everything, he’s patient, and he delivers and has a real smooth game about himself. He’s going to have a great future.”

Ohio State was without sophomore forward Marc Loving, who missed his second consecutive game after being indefinitely suspended by the athletic department. Loving is the Buckeyes’ second-leading scorer and the Big Ten’s top 3-point shooter.

Buckeyes coach Thad Mata said there is no timetable for his return.

Loving was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Jae’Sean Tate, who scored a season-high-tying 20 points.

Rutgers (10-15, 2-10) dropped its eighth game in a row since defeating then-No. 4 Wisconsin 67-62 on Jan. 11. Junior guard Bishop Daniels led the Scarlet Knights with 17 points, one shy of his season best. Forward Junior Etou added 12 points.

The Scarlet Knights got as close as 69-57 with six minutes to play, but Ohio State used a quick 6-0 run to move the cushion to 75-57 with 3:56 left.

Russell left the game briefly with a leg cramp with 12:29 to play and the Buckeyes holding a comfortable 60-42 lead.

The Buckeyes shot 48.4 percent from the floor in the first half and led 44-26.

Russell dominated the half, pouring in 17 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. He didn’t turn the ball over in 20 minutes, and he finished with just two giveaways on the night.

“Those two turnovers are unacceptable,” joked Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “I thought he (Russell) was really, really good tonight. He had great command on the court and affected the game in many different ways.

“Tonight was one of the better performances I have seen in my coaching career. His attention to detail and preparation are as good as I’ve seen for a freshman. That includes a guy I had at Xavier in David West, who was as tuned in as anyone. D’Angelo looks for advantages on the court and that includes mentally.”

The Buckeyes led throughout the half, opening their biggest lead, 41-20, with a 20-8 run that ended with 3:15 left until the half. Russell contributed 10 points in the burst.

The Scarlet Knights, ranked next to last in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.299), failed to convert any of their 10 attempts beyond the arc in the first half. They wound up 4-for-23 (.174) from long range.

For the game, Ohio State shot 50.8 percent from the floor, while Rutgers shot 29 percent.

NOTES:

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