Winners of four of their last five, the Maryland Terrapins (20-10, 11-8) entered tonight’s contest in Columbus still in the hunt for a share of the Big Ten title. With Purdue exactly two games ahead of the turtles with two games left to play, Maryland’s aspirations of cutting down nets were still very much alive when they arrived in Ohio Wednesday afternoon.
However, Ohio State (13-17, 5-14) had other plans. Thanks to a balanced scoring attack across the board, the Buckeyes sent the No. 21 Terrapins home packing, 73-62. The Buckeyes led for over 37 minutes, sending a second-straight tournament home with a loss just this week. Justice Suing led Ohio State with 16 points on 3-7 shooting over 35 minutes. He was 8-8 at the free throw line and also had six rebounds and a block. He was one of six Buckeyes to score in double digits.
Julian Reese led Maryland with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks over 35 minutes. Donald Carey was the only other Maryland player to score double digit points, with 14.
Ohio State was celebrating senior night Wednesday evening, so leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh and freshman guard Roddy Gayle — who had started each of the past three games — went to the bench. In their place were Sean McNeil and Isaac Likekele, as well as Felix Okpara, Bruce Thornton, and the final senior being honored, Sueing.
Kevin Willard rolled with a starting five of Jahmir Young, Hakim Hart, Donta Scott, Don Carey, and Julian Reese.
Ohio State’s downfall against Maryland back in January was a 14-0 run the Terrapins turned on to begin the second half, and the Buckeyes never caught up. Tonight Ohio State was the aggressor, going on a 14-2 run after Maryland scored the game’s first bucket to take a 14-4 lead after just 4:31 of gameplay. Sueing hit a three, McNeil hit a three, and Likekele had back-to-back layups early on to put Maryland on their heels — on Senior Day, no less.
The Terrapins made a push and got back within five points momentarily, but Likekele answered with back-to-back buckets once again, pushing Ohio State back ahead 24-15 with 7:05 remaining in the first half. Maryland was trying to employ the same full-court press that worked against Ohio State in January, but this time OSU was breaking it and then beating Maryland down the court for easy baskets.
The Buckeyes were able to pull ahead by double digits a few times during the first half, but Maryland refused to let Ohio State put this game out of reach. Every Ohio State run was inevitably met by one from the turtles, with the home team heading to the halftime locker room with a 35-29 lead. Both McNeil (10 points) and Likekele (eight points) outscored their season averages in the first half for an Ohio State team that shot 53.8% over the first 20 minutes. Conversely, Maryland shot 54.5% in the first half, but was out-rebounded by the Buckeyes and had seven first-half turnovers.
Ohio State outscored Maryland 11-4 over the first four minutes of the second half to take a 46-33 lead into the first media timeout. Sensabaugh was saddled to the bench for much of the first half with foul trouble, but the freshman had a huge play early in the second half that got the crowd rocking when he was intentionally fouled by Hart. After stealing an errant pass, Sensabaugh was hugged by Hart running up the court, and it was deemed an intentional foul — not going for the ball. Sensabaugh went on to score Ohio State’s next four points en route to putting the Buckeyes ahead 46-33 just 4:13 into the second half.
Ian Martinez scored eight consecutive points for the Terrapins to get them back within nine points with 13 minutes remaining, and that’s more or less where it stayed for the majority of the second half. Ohio State was struggling to push the lead to double digits, but the Terrapins weren’t knocking down enough shots to actually tie the game. After Ohio State scored on back-to-back possessions to go ahead 64-52 with 4:34 remaining, Kevin Willard was forced to call a timeout and regroup, but the Terrapins didn’t have another push in them, as they eventually lost both this game and their hopes of a Big Ten title.
Well, if you weren’t around tonight to witness Ohio State beat the odds and win their second-straight game, here area few key runs and moments that helped push the Buckeyes to victory on senior night:
Ohio State’s seniors power up a 14-2 run
Just minutes after being honored pregame during Senior Day festivities, Ohio State’s senior trio of Sueing, Likekele, and McNeil combined for 10 early points as part of a big 14-2 run. After Likekele scored layups on back-to-back possessions near the 16-minute mark, Willard was forced to call timeout.
McNeil keeps it hot, Willard gets T’d up
The turtles went on a 5-0 run out of the first media timeout to get back within 14-9. But then McNeil hit a short elbow jumper, Scott missed on the other end, and Gene Brown was called for traveling below the basket on a play that looked like it may have actually been a foul on Scott. After the travel, Willard said something to an official and was issued a technical.
The crowd roared and Willard continued to moan. Meanwhile, McNeil hit both free throws to put Ohio State up 18-9 just over seven minutes into the game. McNeil had seven of Ohio State’s first 18 points, and finished the night with 10 points, three rebounds, and one steal over 34 minutes.
Scott’s triple forces an OSU timeout, gets Terrapins back within four
After Likekele’s old-fashioned three-point play made it 25-15 Buckeyes with seven minutes remaining in the first half, Maryland answered with a 6-0 run to make the home team uncomfortable for the first time all evening.
Okpara fouled Reese on a layup at the 5:50 mark, and he split the pair of free throws. After Thornton missed a pretty good look from about seven feet out, Young scored at the other end. Then, following an errant pass from Thornton that Scott picked off, the senior big man from Philadelphia splashed a straight-away three to get the Terrapins back within 25-21 with just under five minutes to go in the first half. Chris Holtmann was forced to call a timeout at this point to gather the troops.
Sensa-steal, and then a big Hart hug
With Ohio State having extended their lead to 42-33 early in the second half, Reese made a poor pass from the corner that was picked off by Sensabaugh. He streaked up the court with nothing but clean hardwood in front of him, but Hart grabbed him from behind. The senior guard from Philly was called for an intentional foul since he made no effort at all to stop the ball — his only goal was to stop Sensabaugh.
Sensabaugh hit both free throws to put the Buckeyes up 44-33, while Holtmann looked at his freshman forward and pumped his fists. Sensabaugh nodded at his coach and then proceeded to score on the next possession as well to put the Buckeyes up 46-33 with 16 minutes left in the game.
Sensabaugh went on to finish with 12 points on 4-11 shooting over 24 minutes. He also had two assists, two turnovers, one block, and one steal.
Martinez’s three cuts the lead to single digits
After Sensabuagh put Ohio State up by 13, Maryland’s Martinez — who averages 5.8 PPG — outscored the Buckeyes 8-4 all by himself over the next 2:30. Martinez’s triple with 13:02 left on the clock got Maryland back within nine points, 50-41. Martinez would finish with those eight points — plus one assist — over 22 minutes.
Thornton turns a disaster into a masterpiece, puts Ohio State up 10 again
With Ohio State up 58-50 and just over six minutes remaining in the game, Maryland turned up the pressure on Thornton bringing the ball up the court. The ball squirted away from the freshman, who got into a wrestling match with Hart for the ball.
Thornton was able to rip the ball away from Hart and pass out to Sensabaugh near the left wing, who — instead of taking an ill-advised three — threw a lob up to Okpara, who slammed it home for his 11th and 12th points of the game. What looked like a potential disaster turned into the most impressive play of the game.
Ohio State took a 60-50 lead again, with 6:18 left on the clock.
Thornton finished the night with 10 points (4-10 shooting), three assists, two rebounds, two turnovers, and one block over 34 minutes. Okpara finished with a season-high 12 points and tied his season-high with 12 rebounds over 31 minutes. He also had three blocks, which was one shy of his season-high.
Ohio State (13-17, 5-14) gets three days off before taking on Michigan State (18-11, 10-8) Sunday afternoon in the season finale. Michigan State will honor their seniors in a 12 noon tilt that will be broadcast on ESPN.
The Spartans are currently one game behind Michigan in search of a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State is locked into the 13-seed and will play next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in the first game of the BTT.