The fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes bolted out to an early lead and kept Maryland at a distance throughout as they defeated the Terrapins, 76-60, in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Wednesday night.
ESPN SportsCenter noted the Buckeyes' convincing victory and the crazy streak they have at home against unranked opponents:
No. 5 Ohio State beats Maryland, 76-60. LaQuinton Ross drops 20 Pts, 6 Reb. Buckeyes have won 73 straight home games vs unranked opponents.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 5, 2013
Playing on the road, the Terrapins aimed to set the tempo early and found some success by hitting their first three shots out of the gates.
But once Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross nailed a three to break a 9-9 stalemate, Maryland wouldn't come close to the lead again in the game. That spearheaded a 15-3 run by the Buckeyes, led by Aaron Craft's success pushing the ball in transition.
Maryland battled back and kept things relatively close, as it held a single-digit deficit with just over a minute remaining in the opening half. But Ohio State was having none of that.
An 8-0 Buckeyes run just before the halftime break gave them a 43-26 advantage heading into the locker room, and Value City Arena fans certainly liked what they saw. Every time the Terps made a quick run to make things close, the Buckeyes would answer with a longer run of their own.
After defensive inefficiency in the first half, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon made a halftime switch to his starting lineup as Baltimore Sun's Don Markus noted:
Mark Turgeon started Varun Ram in place of Nick Faust and Charles Mitchell in place of Evan Smotrycz for the second half.— Don Markus (@sportsprof56) December 5, 2013
Ohio State quickly extended its lead to 20 points early in the second half, and Maryland simply didn't have an answer to the Buckeyes' athleticism and ability to run in transition.
As Ohio State's official Twitter noted, it looked like more of an alley-oop dunk contest and less of a game whenever OSU got out on the fast break:
Maryland would eventually outscore its opponent by one point in the second half, but it was to no avail. At one point, Ohio State led by as many as 25 points after Maryland's Jake Layman was given a technical foul and Craft hit the resulting free throws late in the game.
While fast-break points and big dunks played their parts, efficiency from the field made the biggest difference in this one. Ohio State shot an astounding 52 percent, including eight for 18 (44.4 percent) from long range. Maryland was a paltry 39 percent from the field and hit two of its 18 threes.
Soon, Ohio State and Maryland will be able to face off in conference showdowns as the Terrapins are headed to the Big Ten in July 2014. Turgeon and Co. will have to make the most of playing their many elite ACC foes in this final season in the conference if they want to compete with the Big Ten's best next season.
LaQuinton Ross, F, Ohio State: A-
Ross did a fantastic job of stretching the floor and creating mismatches for Maryland's defense, and it resulted in his best game of the season.
The junior finished with 20 points—a season high and two points short of a career high—along with six rebounds. He was four for six from beyond the arc and had nine of Ohio State's first 12 points.
Ross is one of the biggest X-factors for Ohio State. This is a good team regardless, but if the talented 6'8" forward plays to his potential like he did against Maryland, the sky is the limit for the Buckeyes.
Jake Layman, G, Maryland: C-
In a hostile environment against one of the nation's best teams, Maryland needed its best player and star scorer to have a big game for the Terrapins to even have a fighting chance. Jake Layman didn't deliver.
Layman, who entered the contest leading the team with 16.4 points per game, finished with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting. He tried to impact the game in other ways when his shot wasn't falling, as he racked up seven rebounds and two blocks.
But the Terps simply needed much more from their leading scorer.
Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State: B+
You'd have to search far and wide to find a player who makes more of an impact game after game than Aaron Craft, despite what the stat sheet says. He proved that again on Wednesday.
The senior floor general finished with 10 points and six assists on an efficient, but far from selfish, 3-of-5 shooting. He hit all of his four free-throw attempts.
What was most impressive was his pocket-picking, as he finished with five steals. Many of those resulted in transition points for the Buckeyes.
After suffering their third loss of this young season, the Terrapins will aim to get back into the win column with a home affair against George Washington on Sunday.
Ohio State improved to 7-0 on the season after the win, and the Buckeyes should have no problem continuing their winning streak with four straight home games against mid-major foes.