Columbus, Ohio — The month of January had been unkind for Ohio State and its sophomore center Kaleb Wesson.
The Buckeyes were a woeful 1-6 in January with the typically reliable Wesson averaging just over 11 points and six rebounds in those games.
But Wesson and the Buckeyes got February off to a strong start on Saturday. He had 21 of his game-high 27 points in the first half as Ohio State defeated Rutgers 76-62.
“This was a complete game for us in a lot of ways,” said Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, whose team shot 53 percent from the floor and only had six turnovers. “I was really proud of our older guys. Now, when I’m talking about our older guys, I’m also talking about our sophomores. Shot-making can cover up some things. We made 13 3s and our guys were taking great shots.
“Obviously, Kaleb gave us a great lift offensively. He took what the defense gave him. He was on a roll there. A lot of that was within the flow of the offense.”
Wesson had 17 of his team’s first 20 points to open the game. He made his first six shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers. He ended up 10 of 12 from the floor, including 3 of 4 on 3s.
“I wasn’t really paying attention,” said Wesson, who also had five assists and four rebounds. “I was just playing. You get lost in the game. My teammates were finding me and I was hitting open shots when I had the chance.”
C.J. Jackson added 20 points and seven rebounds for the Buckeyes (14-7, 4-6 Big Ten). Luther Muhammad scored 12 points and Keyshawn Woods added 11.
Eugene Omoruyi had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead Rutgers (11-10, 4-7). Caleb McConnell chipped in 14 points.
Wesson made back-to-back 3-pointers as well as a baseline jumper during an 11-0 Ohio State run that put the Buckeyes up 15-8 with 12:15 left in the first half.
“You can only take away so many things,” said Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell. “I thought (Wesson) was just outstanding today. He got them off to a great start and he kind of carried them.”
Muhammad hit a 3 and Wesson made a fall-away jumper late in the half as the Buckeyes clung to a 37-29 halftime advantage.
Jackson then scored 17 of his points in the second half as the Buckeyes went up by as many as 16.
(At) Illinois 71, Nebraska 64: Kipper Nichols scored 18 points and Ayo Dosunmu added 13 as Illinois handed Nebraska its fifth straight defeat. Trent Frazier scored 11 points for Illinois (7-15, 3-8 Big Ten).
James Palmer Jr. scored a game-high 22 points for Nebraska (13-9, 3-8), while Thomas Allen added 11.
The Huskers were cold from the field all afternoon, hitting 25 of 70 for 36 percent, compared to Illinois’ 27 of 56 shooting for 48 percent.
Illinois lead by as many as 15 points late in the game, but Nebraska pulled within nine points before Illinois held on the for the win.
The Illini kept pace with the Huskers the first half, after jumping out to a 7-0 lead. The final five minutes of the half saw Frazier and Nichols take over for the Illinois offense. Frazier hit two 3-pointers and Nichols one to give Illinois a 38-29 lead at the half.
The Huskers seemed out of sync from the opening tip and shot only 32 percent from the field the first half, compared to 47 percent for Illinois.
Illinois made 9-of-23 free throws (39 percent), its worst free-throw percentage since a 2012 win over Georgia Tech.
Nebraska shot 11-of-21 from the line (52 percent).