With the Buckeyes facing a University of Maryland-Baltimore County team that seemed completely at home shooting from beyond the arc in Value City Arena, it took consistent play and a career day from senior guard Jamar Butler to help the Scarlet and Gray emerge with a 92-83 victory.
Armed with a small but passionate crowd all situated directly behind their team bench, the Retrievers (8-5) began the game with a trey on their opening possession from guard Brian Hodges. From there, the Buckeyes would score the next nine points and take a six-point lead thanks to a trey from Butler and a few good looks into the post, establishing themselves both inside and out.
That summed it up for the rest of the game, as the Buckeyes (9-3) would hold a lead for the duration but find themselves unable to ever completely put the Retrievers away.
"I'm extremely proud of my team's effort," UMBC head coach Randy Monroe said. "I thought that we were terrific, especially in the second half. Although we fell a little short, they came out as winners today."
OSU held its largest lead of the game with 7:19 remaining in the game at 75-58, but UMBC continued to chip away at the deficit. With 1:33 left, a trey by senior guard Ray Barbosa made it 83-77 OSU, capping a 19-8 run by the visitors.
Sophomore swingman David Lighty missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw for the Buckeyes and the announced crowd of 17,847 rose to its collective feet to urge on the OSU defense.
With Lighty draped all over him, Barbosa's ensuing attempt from the top of the circle fell short and the Buckeyes held on from there.
"I think we put a little fear in their heart," Barbosa said.
As a team, UMBC was 17 of 35 (48.6 percent) from beyond the arc. The 17 treys eclipsed the previous school record of 13. Barbosa led the way, going 8 of 14 and tying a school record for an individual in one game.
"I guess today I just found my stroke," said Barbosa, who finished with a game-high 32 points.
"You start hoping he's going to miss," Butler said. "He was hitting challenged shots with hands in his face. There's nothing you can do about that.
The hot-shooting Retrievers forced the Buckeyes to temporary abandon their 3-2 zone for the first time this season. The shots UMBC was getting were similar to the ones OSU had given up all season, Butler said, but the difference this time was the fact that the Retrievers were making theirs.
Matta attributed that to a somewhat lackadaisical approach on defense. UMBC committed just five turnovers during the game.
"I really don't think we played to the level we needed to play," he said. "We didn't have the juice. I'll be honest: I think our guys kept thinking, ‘They can't hit another one,' and they kept making them."
The approach for OSU was to attack the basket and try to get the Buckeyes to the free throw line. The strategy was successful, as OSU shot 31 free throws and connected on 26 of them. Freshman Evan Turner was the primary benefactor, hitting on 10 of his 12 attempts from the charity stripe and finishing a career-high 17 points.
Butler led the way for the Buckeyes, playing all 40 minutes and recording a career-high 12 assists. His 22 points on 5 of 11 shooting tied a career-high and led the Buckeyes, who also got double-doubles from freshman center Kosta Koufos (12 points and 12 boards) and senior forward Othello Hunter (13 points and 10 rebounds). Freshman Jon Diebler had 15 points off the bench on 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc.
When the Buckeyes return to the court, they will face Illinois in their first conference game of the season.
"We should have a great Big Ten season," Koufos said. "It's always been my dream since I was younger to play in the Big Ten, and it's finally coming true."