No one has ever accused the Ohio State basketball team of winning pretty. Earlier this week, the Buckeyes got dragged into a nigh-unwatchable rock fight against Illinois, squeaking by the Fighting Illini in overtime in Champaign. Winning such an ugly game against a .500 team doesn't bode well for the next matchup for the Buckeyes: Sunday's tilt against the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins.
A few short weeks ago, the Buckeyes and Terps tipped off for the first time this season. 40 minutes later, Thad Matta was looking up at the scoreboard to witness the worst loss of his Ohio State tenure, a 100-65 shellacking that was in the bag by halftime. The loss was especially devastating given that the Buckeyes had started to look like a competitive basketball team in the weeks preceding it, with a huge program win over Kentucky as the cherry on top.
Since then, Matta has gone back to the drawing board several times. The Buckeyes have trotted out a few different lineup looks since that day, most notably removing guard JaQuan Lyle from the starting lineup and turning him into an impact player off the bench instead -- he's played about the same amount as new starter A.J. Harris in that stretch, but Harris is the one on the floor at tipoff.
Is there any reason to believe that this weekend's matchup against Maryland will be any closer than the last one? It's possible. The Kentucky game came in the midst of a milquetoast stretch for the Buckeyes, and they came out with their hair on fire for that contest. Still, Maryland has only dropped one game since the two teams last faced off, and that was to No. 11 Michigan State. They beat a feisty Northwestern team and knocked off No. 3 Iowa on either side of that loss, too.
Numbers to know
Maryland has a distinct advantage in accuracy heading into this game. The Terrapins are making an even 50% of their shots from the floor, paced in the starting lineup by freshman C Diamond Stone, who's making 59%. The Buckeyes are making just 44.6% of their shots -- meaning they're not in a position to try to trade buckets with Maryland down the stretch.
The last time Ohio State and Maryland played, the Terrapins hung 100 points on the Buckeyes, who never got close to even staying competitive. The 35-point defeat was the worst of Thad Matta's OSU career, and a clear sign that something needed to change in Columbus. With some new lineups and the added incentive of not wanting to get waxed at home, that number will hopefully be smaller this time around.
One place where the Buckeyes do have a slight numbers advantage is on the glass, where they average 39 rebounds per game. That's 3 more than Maryland's 36. If the Buckeyes can clean up on the glass and make the most of missed shot attempts, they could keep this game closer than expected. Trevor Thompson, currently a bench player, is one of the better rebounders on the team, and he and Daniel Giddens will need to get the better of Diamond Stone.
Cast of characters
Despite all of the exciting young talent on the Buckeye roster, senior Marc Loving is still the most important player on Thad Matta's team. He paces Ohio State in minutes and points per game, and his experience is sorely needed in such a young lineup. The last time the Buckeyes played the Terrapins, Loving had one of his worst games in the Scarlet and Gray, going just 1-8 from the floor in 30 minutes of game time and finishing with just three points. If the Buckeyes are going to have any shot to pull the upset here, Loving will need to get back to his 13 PPG average and provide stability on the floor.
The 6'7 sophomore forward from Normal, Illinois is anything but. In his second year as a Buckeye, he's emerged as one of the most integral parts of Thad Matta's game plan, averaging 12 points per game (good for second on the team) and leading the team in rebounding with 6.2 boards per game. KBD played pretty well against Maryland the first time around, finishing with 15 points. Still, he does fall flat from time to time, like his goose egg against Purdue a few days later. Which version of Diop shows up to this game will have a lot of bearing on how long the Buckeyes stay in it.
Trimble is one of the best players in the Big Ten conference, and while he didn't light up the scoreboard against the Buckeyes the last time around, he made hay in other ways, namely with his distribution. He racked up nine assists on a night in which the Terrapins were firing on all cylinders, setting up teammates for good looks and playing just 27 minutes in the blowout win. He leads all Maryland players in scoring with 14.3 PPG. Containing Trimble will be a must if the Buckeyes are going to hang around in this one.
Carter doesn't get the kind of media attention that teammates like Rasheed Sulaimon do, but he might be even more important than the high-profile Duke transfer. Carter, another ACC transfer (he played two years at Georgia Tech) was an offensive buzzsaw against the Buckeyes a few weeks ago, recording 25 points against Matta's overmatched team. He's scored in double figures in seven straight games, one reason he's second on the team in points behind Trimble. Carter is one of Maryland's most efficient shooters, and he's an animal on the glass, recording almost seven boards per game. If this one gets out of hand again, you can probably thank Carter for it.
How to watch
Game time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 The Fan
Streaming Online: CBSSports.com