Starting in 2014, Ohio State and Maryland are set to be Big Ten conference foes.
Wednesday night, the two squads are set to meet on the hardwood for the final time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, an annual event that pits teams from each respective conference against each other early in the season.
While the Terrapins (6-2, 0-0) and Buckeyes (6-0, 0-0) are soon to pay a visit to each other’s home courts, that doesn’t change the mindset heading into the game.
“You know, it’s sort of just another game … and I don’t meant that lightly,” OSU coach Thad Matta said Tuesday. “For us being in the Big Ten, them being the ACC, the irony of them joining the Big Ten next year. But it’s a high level basketball game that from my perspective we have to take care of our part and play our best basketball.”
OSU associate head coach Dave Dickerson graduated from Maryland in 1990 after playing for the Terrapins. He then coached at the university for nine seasons, helping the team get to back-to-back Final Four appearances and win the national championship in 2002. Wednesday, though, it’s all about OSU.
“Obviously winning the national championship and going to back-to-back Final Fours were a big deal for me and my family, but my ties are to Ohio State now,” Dickerson said Tuesday. “I have emotional ties to Lenzelle Smith, Aaron Craft, Sam Thompson and those guys. This is my first time ever coaching against Maryland, but as far as the emotional part of it, it lies with Ohio State.”
The Buckeyes are coming off their highest-scoring output of the young season, beating North Florida 99-64 at home Friday. Five players scored in double figures against the Ospreys, including junior forward LaQuinton Ross, who poured in 17 points to bust out of a 2 for 20 shooting slump.
“LaQuinton’s one of those guys that the second he relaxes, he becomes an average player. I think he’s starting to come to grips with that,” Matta said. “I’m very proud of the way he played Friday. I don’t know if there’s anybody that was happier that I was in terms of him making shots.”
Maryland is coming off an 89-62 victory against Morgan State, a team OSU beat 89-50 Nov. 9. The Terrapins have won four straight games and their two losses this season are by a combined eight points.
“We know Maryland is a great team, they have great players on their team, and if we don’t respect that they’re going to come in here and blow us out,” junior guard Shannon Scott said Monday. “We’ve just got to be ready.”
The No. 5-ranked Buckeyes leapt to No. 3 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll when the rankings were announced Monday. With the exception of then-No.17 Marquette, OSU has yet to play a team from a BCS school, and senior guard Aaron Craft said his team certainly has the ability to be mentioned among the nation’s best, but there’s still work to be done to get there.
“I think we’re definitely capable with the guys we have,” Craft said Tuesday. “We have talked a lot about how we have a veteran group and all that, but it still took us a little bit to adjust to our new role and everyone figure out how they can help this team the best and I think we’re still learning how to do that. Hopefully we can continue to move forward. It’s still early, it’s still December so there’s still a lot of room for improvement and the worst we can do is rest on that now.”
Matta said Maryland will be a tough challenge for the Buckeyes, because the team does many things well.
“They’re obviously a very talented basketball team … they have a lot of guys that can do different things,” Matta said. “They’ll move guys around, they shoot the ball well, they execute at a very, very high level offensively.”
Although Wednesday’s matchup at the Schottenstein Center could serve as a “welcome game” for the Terrapins as they prep for the Big Ten next season, Scott said taking them lightly is not an option.
“We want to win the game by as much as we can, but we’re not going to take them lightly or anything like that,” Scott said. “We don’t expect them to take us lightly. We know that every team wants to come in here and beat us so we’re all going to be ready for that.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.