When Ohio State took the court Sunday afternoon for its game against Maryland it was with the memory of the Buckeyes 100-65 defeat against the Terrapins earlier this month on their mind.
Thad Matta’s team knew they simply had to play better in every facet to have a shot at topping the No. 8 Terrapins. The Buckeyes did, hitting their first three shots and building their first-half lead to as many as seven. After surrendering the advantage, Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) battled back to take a lead with under six minutes to play in the game. But Maryland (19-3, 8-2) did what top teams are expected to, weathering each storm and countering with one of their own to hand Ohio State a 66-61 loss.
"We had that stretch where we had some shots at the basket that just didn’t go down and then they hit a couple big threes there down the stretch," Matta said. "We lost a guy and over-helped on one, but veteran players make veteran plays and I thought they did a heck of a job of sticking with that they were trying to do and that was probably the difference.”
A three-point play from Marc Loving that featured the junior’s first field goal of the afternoon gave Ohio State a 49-48 lead with 6:55 left in the game, its first since holding a 27-24 advantage with 8:01 left in the first. After free-throws from Rasheed Sulaimon the Buckeyes again took the lead, this time on a Kam Williams jumper, but despite back-and-forth play, that 51-50 advantage would be their last.
Sulaimon and Melo Trimble hit threes on consecutive possessions to push the Maryland lead to 60-55 with just 2:03 remaining, an advantage that proved to be too much for the Buckeyes to overcome. Loving stole the ball from Trimble and hit two free throws to pull Ohio State within 60-57 but free throws from Robert Carter Jr. sealed the Maryland win.
Ohio State led early thanks to the efforts of Jae’Sean Tate as the sophomore scored 10 of the team’s first 18 points, but he and the rest of the Buckeyes went cold from there. Maryland battled back to take a 31-29 lead on a layup from Melo Trimble, its first advantage since leading 2-0. JaQuan Lyle turned the ball over on the following possession and Sulaimon found Jake Layman with an alley-oop in transition that he finished with a thunderous dunk, propelling the Terrapins to a 37-31 halftime margin.
“I think this game we just came out with more energy, more effort," Tate said. "We put it all on the line. Just there in the end, we came up short. Credit to Maryland, they made some big-time shots down the stretch. I think everybody on the team went out there, gave it their all, no hidden agendas and we just came up short.”
The better energy and intensity that Ohio State displayed early in the game was there in the second half, a significantly better showing than the historic loss the Buckeyes suffered at Maryland 15 days earlier, but the shot making wasn’t.
The Buckeyes started the game hitting 6 of their first 9 shots but closed the first half on a 5 of 23 stretch, including a 1 of 12 shooting stretch that took them to the half an allowed Maryland to go on a 13-3 run to take the its halftime advantage.
"I thought we had some pretty good looks," Matta said. "There in the second half we had some point blank layups, and their size affects you but those are the ones that we’ve got to finish and we talked about finishing through the contact. I liked where we were getting the ball, that’s for sure.”
The sluggish shooting carried over into the second half as the Buckeyes hit just one of their first six attempts in the final frame. Maryland, however, didn’t take advantage and five straight points from Williams pulled Ohio State within three. A Tate steal lead to a put back-dunk from Daniel Giddens in transition two possessions later to make it 44-42 Maryland with 11:10 left.
That kicked off a stretch of back-and-forth play that culminated in Loving’s game-tying jumper and go-ahead free throw.
Maryland held a 28-20 advantage in the paint and hit 20 of its 23 free throws compared to the 14 of 24 effort from the stripe for the Buckeyes. The biggest problem at the line for Ohio State was that two of the team's worst free throw shooters -- Tate and Giddens -- attempted nine of the team's 24 shots from the charity stripe, hitting three.
"We were inches away and we’ve got to close that gap of that inch," Matta said. "We had a real good opportunity today but we just didn’t get it done.
"We haven’t been a prolific shooting free throw team, it’s kind of contagious when we’re on we’re on, when we’re not we’re not, those are the little things. That’s that inch that we have to close down.”
Tate led the Buckeyes with 16 points while Loving and Williams each added nine and Keita Bates-Diop contributed eight. Trimble led all scorers with 20 as one of four Terrapins in double figures.
“I definitely thought that going in, the last 10 minutes of the game, that we had this one, but give credit, Maryland is a top-five team," Tate said when asked where the loss put the Buckeyes in the big picture. "There’s still a lot of basketball to be played; nothing is set in stone."
The Buckeyes get back on the court Thursday at Wisconsin.