Ohio State and Maryland aren’t all that familiar with each other, but that’s certainly about to change.
These programs haven’t met in nearly three decades despite regularly being part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and their matchup Wednesday night in Columbus will be the last in which they’re on opposite sides of the event.
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The Terrapins (5-2) are leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten next season, so this contest against the fifth-ranked Buckeyes (6-0) serves not only as a very tough challenge but a preview of a conference rivalry.
“We know this is a huge game for our program and going into the Big Ten next year, this will be a good test,” said sophomore Jake Layman, Maryland’s leader with 16.4 points per game.
Ohio State leads the series 3-2, winning the last meeting 78-66 on Nov. 30, 1985.
Though Ohio State is clearly the favorite Wednesday, it is 6-6 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge whereas the Terrapins are 10-4 and tied with Wake Forest for the second-most wins behind Duke (12). Their 4-1 record in road games at this event is the best among teams to have played at least four.
“I like to think we’ll be pretty focused and dialed in,” coach Mark Turgeon said of his team’s first true road game. “It will be a pretty tough game obviously, but I feel better about our team than I did a week ago.”
While Maryland’s run of four straight victories includes three in four days to win the Paradise Jam tournament in the Bahamas, the Buckeyes have won every game by double digits behind a defense allowing 53.3 points per game to rank among the nation’s best.
Ohio State’s offense also could be much tougher going forward, having rediscovered a weapon in its latest game.
LaQuinton Ross scored 17 points and shot 6 of 9 from the field in a 99-64 win over North Florida on Friday. Ross, who averaged 15.0 points during the Buckeyes’ run to the NCAA tournament regional finals, had been shooting 22.7 percent while averaging 6.2 points.
Ross hit four 3-pointers Friday after totaling four through the first five games.
“He was probably humbled a little bit the way he’s shot the ball the last few games,” coach Thad Matta said. “It was great to see the ball go in for him.”
Junior Amir Williams had a career-high 18 points to tie Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. for the team lead with 11.3 per game. Craft and Smith recorded their 100th collegiate win in their 119th game, faster than any Ohio State player.
“If you stop and think about how quick they got there – 119 games to get 100 wins – it’s amazing,” Matta said. “And I’ve never been prouder of two guys.”
One Terrapins player who has seen plenty of those two guys is Evan Smotrycz, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.7 per game. The Michigan transfer has played the Buckeyes six times and lost five, averaging 5.8 points and shooting 32.4 percent.
Smotrycz had his second straight double-double Friday with 19 points and 12 rebounds in an 89-62 victory over Morgan State. He made four 3-pointers and Layman hit seven en route to his career-high 27 points for Maryland, which shot 62.3 percent overall.
That’s the first time the Terps hit at least half of their field-goal attempts. Ohio State is limiting opponents to 35.3 percent.
The Buckeyes shot 69.2 percent Friday – sixth-best in school history – after failing to surpass 48.0 in the first five games.