Ohio State holds off Rutgers for fourth straight win

Bruce Thornton and Jamison Battle combined for 46 points as Ohio State held off host Rutgers for a 76-72 win in Columbus on Wednesday for the Buckeyes’ fourth straight win.

Thornton scored 24 and Battle had 22 points while Roddy Gayle Jr. added all 11 of his points, including two clutch free throws, in the second half for the Buckeyes (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten).

Derek Simpson led Rutgers (8-5, 0-2 Big Ten) with 23 points. Noah Fernandes scored 17 points and Mawot Mag added 11 points.

Ohio State was up 74-69 before Simpson nailed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left but Gayle stepped to the line three seconds later and made both shots for the final score.

Trailing by 17 in the first half and facing a 13-point halftime deficit, Rutgers chipped away and was within 67-66 on a jumper in the lane by Mag with 3:20 to play but Evan Mahaffey countered at the other end with a jumper to thwart the comeback.

The Buckeyes are 8-0 all-time at home against the Scarlet Knights and Ohio State leads the series 12-4. The three previous meetings were won by four points or fewer.

Battle (17) and Thornton (15) matched Rutgers’ point total when the Buckeyes took a 45-32 halftime.

The Scarlet Knights were allowing just 61.4 points to rank in the top 10 nationally but they weren’t counting on a hot start from Battle and Thornton.

Rutgers’ goal was to pressure the backcourt trio of Battle, Thornton and Gayle, who came in scoring a combined 46.4 points.

It worked early when Thornton, who did not have more than two turnovers in any game this season, had three by the nine-minute mark and the Scarlet Knights built a 20-19 lead.

Then, the Buckeyes went on an 11-0 run, finished by a 3-pointer by Battle. The streak was stopped by Simpson’s jumper to make it 30-22 but a pair of 3-pointers by Thornton over the next two minutes upped the score to 36-24.

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