CHICAGO — Marc Loving had a career night in the 22nd game of his sophomore season.
Less than a week later, he was suspended.
Ohio State’s sophomore forward scored 19 points and shot 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the Buckeyes’ 80-56 win over then-No. 16 Maryland on Jan. 29. But just hours before OSU tipped off against Purdue on Feb. 4, a team spokesman announced that Loving hadn’t made the trip.
His suspension lasted three games, then Loving played just five minutes and didn’t score in the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State on Valentine’s Day. He followed that up with four points in a loss to Michigan and six points each in wins against Nebraska and Purdue. Then as the regular season wound down, the Toledo native posted two more goose eggs in a win against Penn State and a loss to Wisconsin.
After scoring 19 points against the Terrapins, Loving had totaled 16 over the Buckeyes’ next nine games.
After struggling to find playing time, let alone made baskets, Loving’s funk came to an end Thursday night when OSU topped Minnesota, 79-73, in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Loving scored seven points in the first half alone, and finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds. But it was the defense played by OSU’s lone sophomore that stood out to coach Thad Matta.
“Everybody thinks offense,” Matta said. “But he really made some spectacular defensive plays from the help position, which was good to see because a lot of the time when a guy’s not playing well offensively he’ll shut down defensively.”
Matta added that Loving’s strong play makes the Buckeyes “a stronger basketball team.”
Loving called the suspension a “learning lesson,” and added that having multiple options when it comes to scoring the ball will help OSU going forward in the tournament.
“Having a lot of options on offense is key, you have to expect everyone,” Loving said. “You can’t just key on the one guy and load the box.”
Loving was one of three OSU players to score double digits against the Golden Gophers. He finished behind senior guard Shannon Scott, who scored a career-high 21 points, and freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who tallied a game-high 23 points.
After the game, Scott said Loving transitioned well back into his role in the offense.
“Marc played a great game for us,” Scott said. “He shot the ball well, got to the basket, rebounded the ball well for us so he is playing his best basketball right now, that’s what we need him to do.”
While his personal struggles on the court might be behind him, Loving said he’ll keep the team’s success as the top priority.
“(I’m) just happy to be able to contribute and move forward, and I’m happy today that we’re able to move on in the … Big Ten Tournament.”
Loving and the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Michigan State on Friday night at the United Center. Tip is set for about 25 minutes after the conclusion of Indiana’s 6:30 p.m. matchup against Maryland.