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Men’s basketball: Ohio State facing toughest task at worst time against Maryland

OSU senior forward Marc Loving (2) fistbumps with a fan during the Buckeyes’ game against Northwestern on Jan. 22. The Buckeyes lost 74-72. Credit: Nick McWilliams | Sports Editor

It’s been a rough season for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, and it could get a lot rougher after the team’s next game.

The Buckeyes were embarrassed by then 11-10 Iowa in their last game, dropping a winnable game 85-72 in a contest that could have pointed the program in the right direction. OSU picked up a big win against Minnesota at home, but lost all momentum against the Hawkeyes.

Simply put, the loss to Iowa was a low point for OSU. Even though the worst loss in terms of score came at the hands of Wisconsin, the Buckeyes looked totally outmatched by an Iowa team missing its leading scorer, Peter Jok.

Now, with a 3-6 conference record and just nine games left to salvage anything from a season littered with missed opportunities, the Buckeyes must find a way to beat the Big Ten’s best team — Maryland. And given how OSU has played thus far, there is little to convince Buckeye fans of a possible win on Tuesday.

Following the team’s loss to Northwestern, junior center Trevor Thompson expressed his views as to why the team was losing, and losing in such ugly fashion.

“We have to play for Ohio State,” he said. “We have to play for the university and for each other. What happens is we start to play for ourselves and were not thinking about the team. We have to be selfless. That has to be consistent.”

The Terrapins are 19-2 this season and have won six straight conference games. Highlighted by a tough defense and the dynamic scoring ability of junior guard Melo Trimble, Maryland is one of the toughest matchups OSU will have this season.

After Iowa, OSU coach Thad Matta was straight to the point about what went wrong.

“We’ve got to try harder,” Matta said. “We did some things defensively tonight that I’ve never, ever seen us do. And give Iowa credit, my god did they play well. We just couldn’t get the stops that we needed.”

Against Maryland, OSU will have to get stops. The Terrapins are a team that might not light up the scoreboard with points, but will limit an opposing offense to an average of 65.8 points per game.

By contrast, the Buckeyes average 73.4 points per game, but have suffered from a lack of output from upperclassmen like senior forward Marc Loving and redshirt junior guard Kam Williams. Although each have averaged 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively, both have been wildly inconsistent.

Both players have the lowest plus-minus mark of the OSU starters, as Loving has posted a 3.7 on average, while Williams averages a meager 2.9.

Thompson has been one of the lone bright spots for the Buckeyes, averaging 10.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season in his starting role. However, against Iowa, he failed to score in 13 minutes, and fouled out in the second half.

Although a rebound for Thompson is likely against Maryland, OSU will need stronger output from Williams and Loving for the rest of the season if anything is to come for the Buckeyes. After the loss to Northwestern, Williams stood up in the locker room, and addressed the team.

“We need everybody, going into a basketball game, to have the same, positive, common goal to win the game,” he said. “Not stats, not how many rebounds I can get or how many points I can get. The ultimate thing we are trying to achieve is to win basketball games. That’s why it’s a team game.”

Williams might be standing up,expressing his views vocally and trying to rally the troops, but OSU has little hope if play does not improve.

Maryland rolls into Columbus on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Schottenstein Center.

Prediction: Maryland 83, Ohio State 69.

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