What we learned from the Big Ten men’s lacrosse tournament semifinals

The Big Ten men’s lacrosse tournament began Thursday in Ann Arbor, Mich., and reigning NCAA champion Maryland and archrival Johns Hopkins advanced to Saturday’s title game at 7 p.m.

The Terps (12-2), the top seed and the regular-season titlist for the fourth straight year, defeated No. 4 seed Rutgers, 12-9, in the first semifinal. Maryland completed a two-game sweep and extended its winning streak against the Scarlet Knights to 11 consecutive games.

The Blue Jays (10-4), the No. 2 seed, edged No. 3 seed Ohio State, 6-5, in the second semifinal. Johns Hopkins won courtesy of junior midfielder Alex Concannon’s goal with 11.3 seconds left in fourth quarter after senior midfielder Joel Tinney’s pass pinballed off a few players.

Here is one thing we learned about each team:

1. Maryland needs the kind of diversified production it got against Rutgers.

Senior midfielder Connor Kelly, the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, finished with two goals and one assist, but it paled in comparison to his eight-point outburst in the Terps’ 11-10 win against the Scarlet Knights on April 15. But Kelly could afford to keep his Superman costume in his bag because redshirt freshman attackman Logan Wisnauskas accumulated three goals and two assists, sophomore attackman Jared Bernhardt added three goals and one assist, and freshman midfielder Bubba Fairman scored three times. If Maryland can cultivate points from other sources, that should force future defenses to respect the other members of the offense.

2. Rutgers’ season might end early — again.

This spring, the Scarlet Knights have defeated Syracuse and Penn State — two quality wins that might have been enough in the past to warrant an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. But Rutgers (9-6) also lost to Army West Point and Princeton, and absorbed setbacks to each of the Big Ten tournament semifinalists. With an RPI and strength of schedule in the teens, the team needed to beat Maryland on Thursday to add a signature win to its profile and might find itself left out of the NCAA tournament despite a strong record and dangerous offense for the third consecutive season.

3. Johns Hopkins’ defense might be peaking at the right time.

After the Blue Jays limited Maryland to eight goals in four quarters and three overtime periods on Saturday, coach Dave Pietramala was hopeful that the defense’s showing was not an anomaly. He got his wish as senior goalkeeper Brock Turnbaugh made a game-high 16 saves and the unit held Ohio State to its second-lowest goal output of the season. Johns Hopkins has lately been more generous on defense than Pietramala would like, but perhaps this is a sign that the team has rediscovered its chemistry on that side of the field.

4. Ohio State’s run might have all been for naught.

The Buckeyes overcame a five-game losing streak with three straight victories over Michigan, Maryland and Rutgers to cement a berth in the Big Ten tournament. But Ohio State’s RPI is worse than Rutgers’ and an 8-7 record likely won’t sway members of the selection committee for the NCAA tournament. If the Buckeyes are left out of the playoffs, they will be the first NCAA tournament finalist from a year ago to fail to qualify for the following postseason since Massachusetts — which lost to Virginia in the 2006 title game — did not advance to the 2007 tourney.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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