The present found a much bigger place in a 76-60 loss to the No. 5 Buckeyes in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the last for the Terps in one league before they jump next season to the other.
On a night when former Terps and Buckeyes coach Gary Williams was honored by the Big Ten for his contribution to both programs, the Terps couldn’t replicate the success Williams’ teams had in knocking off ranked teams on the road.
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Ohio State (7-0) seemed to have its way whether it was knocking down shots from the perimeter or taking it in close for an array of layups and lob dunks. The Buckeyes turned 18 points off turnovers in the first half into a 17-point halftime lead and were never really threatened.
“Right before half we turned the sucker over and it led to layups, that was the game, right before half,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after one of the more one-sided defeats in his three-year tenure. “We don’t get a shot up the last possession. I can go on and on.”
The game seemed to be summed up by a high-flying lob dunk by Ohio State forward Sam Thompson, who posterized Jake Layman on the way to the rim, on a showtime lob from guard Shannon Scott. Layman also received a technical, and Aaron Craft buried both free throws for a 70-45 lead with 6 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
“I thought Ohio State was terrific, they came out making shots, they got a lot of confidence because of that and they executed at a high level,” Turgeon said. “They’re a good defensive team.We didn’t make shots tonight, but a lot of it had to do with them.”
Turgeon said Craft, known as one of the best defensive players in the country, “controlled the game at both ends.” He said that Craft, who finished with 10 points, six assists and five steals, “is at another level, we’ll never see that unless we play them again.”
It was by far the worst loss for the Terps in the series that dates back to the 1999-2000 season. Turgeon said that he and his players didn’t get caught up in the fact that it was Maryland’s last appearance for the ACC in the series before moving to the Big Ten next season.
“We didn’t talk about it being our last game, we just talked about Ohio State, obviously we didn’t do a good job playing against Ohio State tonight, but give them credit,” Turgeon said. “It was a great opportunity for us. I just don’t think we competed when we needed to compete.”
The defeat broke a four-game winning streak for Maryland (5-3) and certainly gave Turgeon much to work on heading into his team’s next game, Sunday against George Washington in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington.
Junior guard Dez Wells, who scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime when Turgeon moved him back to shooting guard, had failed to score until there was 1:48 to go in the first half. Layman, the team’s leading scorer, finished with just two points on 1-for-9 shooting.
Asked about Layman’s performance, coming on the heels of a 27-point career high game against Morgan State, Turgeon said, “You look at the numbers. It wasn’t just Jake, we just didn’t compete when we needed to compete.”
Evan Smotrycz, who lost five times in six games to Ohio State during his two seasons at Michigan, said that he was disappointed with how Maryland handled the pressure applied by the Buckeyes, especially Craft and Scott.
Asked what the message was from Turgeon at halftime, Smotrycz said, “Play tougher, we were playing really soft, too many turnovers.”
Turgeon started former walk-on Varun Ram at point guard in the second half as well as Charles Mitchell (12 points, 11 rebounds) in place of Smotrycz, who had kept the Terps in the game early and finished with nine of his 15 points in the first half.
The move didn’t slow down the Buckeyes in general or junior forward LaQuinton Ross in particular.
Ross, whose four early 3-point shots helped Ohio State build leads of 18-9 and 24-12, made a 3-point play to start the second half. It looked for awhile that Maryland was going to threaten the 27-point loss at Virginia two years ago. Only a late run by the Terps made the final score more reasonable.
“I thought we played better in the second half, but credit to them, Ohio State shows you they’re a good team because I don’t think they had much letdown in the second half,” Turgeon said. “They continued to execute in the second half. It was
Said Wells, “We came out aggressive, we were going to the basket and getting fouled, we just didn’t keep that up. They’re a great team, they’re Top 5 for a reason. For us to get to that level, we have to execute in really tough environments.”