COLUMBUS, Ohio – Every Big Ten game won’t unfold like this for Maryland starting next season, because not every Big Ten team is ranked fifth nationally and comes armed with the country’s best defense like Ohio State. But the reminders were everywhere and unavoidable during a 76-60 loss to the Buckeyes, reminders that opponents like Ohio State will eventually become the norm.
Coach Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins wanted no part of the Big Ten narrative, or the ACC narrative, or any conference narrative, for that matter. Wednesday night was about measuring themselves against a top 10 team in a hostile building, and in that department Maryland fell flat. With that suffocating defense and arsenal of scorers, the Buckeyes have a third straight Elite Eight in their sights. The Terrapins’ woes with turnovers and shooting made it difficult to muster any noise at all.
So no, Turgeon didn’t address his players about how next year they will appear on the opposite side of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, facing whichever school used to count against their conference standings. Given his team’s struggles against Ohio State – by far Maryland’s worst loss in the event since its inception — that’s superficial and secondary.
“We really don’t get caught up in all that stuff,” Turgeon said. “We just come to play the game. We knew we were playing a top 10 team, really good team with great guards and a great coach. Next year obviously we’ll play our old league and it won’t be that big of a deal. It’ll be a game that night for us that we have to play well.
“We didn’t talk about it being our last, we just talked about Ohio State. Obviously we didn’t do a good job of playing against Ohio State.”
That’s true. Maryland shot 11.1 percent on three-pointers. It committed 10 first-half turnovers that Ohio State turned into 18 points. Its defense directed traffic, but rarely stopped it. The game was effectively over by halftime, when the Buckeyes led by 17 points, and the Terps actually outscored them by one point in the second half. Nevertheless, fans began filing for the exits with five minutes left, effectively satisfied with the Big Ten welcome their team had offered.
Before the game, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany presented Gary Williams a plaque for his service to both conferences, because before Williams became a legendary coach in College Park, he guided the Buckeyes for three seasons. The crowd gave him an ovation and, as he walked off the court to sit behind the Maryland bench, serenaded him with chants of “Ga-ry. Ga-ry.”
“Gary is an outstanding ambassador to college basketball,” Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “With his passion and tireless work ethic, he changed the culture and brought back a winning tradition to both basketball programs at Maryland and Ohio State. He and his teams made an indelible mark in both the ACC and Big Ten conferences and this recognition is a testament to his leadership and commitment to his student-athletes and our universities.”
All well and good, the Maryland players said later. They will handle the Big Ten move when it arrives next summer, probably with as much enthusiasm as they handle dishwashing. Maybe a victory would have changed matters, made them more excited for the distant future even as Sunday’s matchup against a rapidly improving George Washington team lurks ahead, but how could they be when the now brought such frustration, disappointment and three alley-oop dunks that landed on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays”?
“Basketball’s basketball,” Dez Wells said, brushing away the Big Ten question like he would a fly. “I don’t care what conference you’re in. That doesn’t matter to me.”
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