VALUE CITY ARENA
Night two of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicks off tonight in a matchup that starting next year will be a conference showdown. The Terrapins are in their last season as a member of the ACC before they make the move to the Big Ten Conference at the beginning of July. This matchup comes on the heels of the news that the Buckeyes moved up to third in the USA Today Coaches Poll on Monday. While still fifth in the AP Top 25, the Buckeyes have used lockdown defense to navigate their way through their six early season matchups so far.
While the competition that the Buckeyes have played so far this young season hasn't been the strongest, they are still put the clamps down defensively on opponents, allowing opponents only to shoot 35.3% through six games, which is currently seventh in the nation. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott have been leading the strong perimeter defense that the Buckeyes employ, ranking second and third, respectively, among Big Ten players in terms of steals per game. Not only are the Buckeyes getting strong defensive play from the perimeter, but Amir Williams has been a force inside so far on the early season, averaging eight rebounds and two blocks per game.
The Buckeye offense showed no sign of any day after Thanksgiving hangover on Friday with a 99-64 win against North Florida. The 69.2% that the Buckeyes shot from the floor on Friday night was the sixth-best field goal percentage in school history. LaQuinton Ross showed signs of breaking out of his early season funk against the Ospreys, going for 17 points in the game, including hitting four 3-pointers. It was the first time since the November 12th game against Ohio that Ross hit double figures in scoring.
Another big boost against the overmatched Ospreys came from sophomore Amadeo Della Valle, who hit five 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 17 points in just 15 minutes on the floor. While most won't put much stock in a win over North Florida, it was quite an important one for Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr, as they became the fastest Buckeyes to reach 100 wins in their career. The seniors needed only 119 games to reach the century mark in wins, topping the previous best of 124 games that was needed for William Buford to hit 100.
Maryland has had an up-and-down season so far on their way to a 5-2 record. The Terrapins opened the season with a tough 78-77 loss against a UConn team that is still undefeated so far this season. The other loss that Maryland has suffered this season is a little bit harder to explain. The Terrapins suffered a 90-83 loss in College Park to a Oregon State team that has losses to Coppin State and Depaul so far this season on their way to a 3-2 record. Mark Turgeon's team has rebounded nicely since then, winning the Paradise Jam Classic last week with wins over Marist, Northern Iowa, and Providence. In between winning the holiday tournament title and this matchup with the Buckeyes, the Terrapins squeezed in a easy 89-62 win over Morgan State on Friday.
After missing the NCAA Tournament the last three years, Maryland is trying to make their last season in the ACC a memorable one before they officially move to the Big Ten. There are a lot of similarities between Ohio State and Maryland, as the Terrapins have a solid core of upperclassmen, and thrive on strong defense. So far through seven games the Terps have held opponents to 38.7% shooting from the field. Three of the first seven opponents that Maryland has played have failed to hit 55 points, including two of the opponents that the Terps played in the Paradise Jam Classic.
After averaging 5.5 points per game last year, sophomore Jake Layman has really stepped up his play this season, averaging 16.4 points per game through seven games. In the victory against Morgan State on Friday, Layman scored a season-high 27 points at the Terps cruised to an easy victory. The only matchup that Layman hasn't hit double figures in was the Paradise Jam Classic championship game, where he only scored 6 points in the win over Providence. Along with Layman, Maryland has gotten double figure scoring production from juniors Evan Smotrcyz (13.7 PPG) and Dez Wells (12.9 PPG) during the early season.
Numbers to Know
Ohio State's record in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, though the Buckeyes have been better lately, winning four of the last five games they have played in the Challenge.
The field goal percentage of Amir Williams (25-37), which leads the Big Ten.
The all-time record of the Buckeyes against their future conference foe. Ohio State won 78-66 the last time these two teams met on November 30th, 1985.
Cast of Characters
The name will sound familiar to Buckeye fans, as Smotrcyz started his career at Michigan before transferring to College Park after his sophomore season. The junior is leading Maryland with 7.6 rebounds per game on the season.
While Ohio State has Craft and Scott causing havoc on the perimeter defensively, Faust is doing the same for the Terps. After his four steals against Morgan State, Faust is averaging 1.7 steals per game, which leads Maryland.
The junior center from Detroit has seemed to have found his scoring touch in the offseason, racking up double figure scoring totals in four of his last five games this season to go along with his sold interior defense.
The scoring slump from Ross has been well-documented so far this year, but can the 17-point scoring outburst that he had against North Florida kickstart LQR? A big game against Maryland could push Ross into double figures in points per game on the season.