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Maryland (5-2) at (5) Ohio State (6-0)



Wednesday, December 4, 7 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (18,809) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Maryland 2-1, Ohio St. 4-0. Away Record: Maryland 0-0, Ohio St. 1-0. Neutral Record: Maryland 3-1, Ohio St. 0-0. Conference Record: Maryland 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Series Record: Ohio State leads, 3-2.

GAME NOTES: The Big Ten/ACC Challenge continues on Wednesday night, featuring a matchup between the Maryland Terrapins and the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Maryland brings a 5-2 record into this clash, the team responding from two losses in its first three games to win four straight. The most recent triumph for the Terps came last Friday at home against Morgan State, 89-62. Maryland is playing its first official road game of the season tonight, and the team will play its next three outside of College Park as well, the finale of which being its ACC opener at Boston College on Dec. 12. Following that stretch, the team will open a five-game homestand on Dec. 14 against Florida Atlantic.

Ohio State is a perfect 6-0 on the young season, with the team's signature win coming in a 52-35 decision at Marquette on Nov. 16. The Buckeyes are 4-0 at home, and they're in the midst of an eight-game homestand, this being game No. 4. In all, OSU will play 11 of its first 12 and 12 of its first 14 in Columbus. The Buckeyes open Big Ten Conference play at Purdue on New Year's Eve.

Ohio State has won three of the previous five meetings in the all-time series with Maryland, but this is the first meeting since the Buckeyes posted a 78-66 victory back on Nov. 30, 1985.

Since the opening week of the season, the Terrapins have played well, albeit against some questionable competition as double-digit wins over the likes of Marist, Northern Iowa and Morgan State were expected, while a 56-52 triumph over Providence to win the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas demonstrated a certain level of toughness. Maryland played exceptional defense against the Friars, limiting them to a total of 16 field goals on 27.1 percent shooting, which included a dreadful 3-of-16 showing from 3-point range. Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz paced the team with 13 points apiece, and the latter made it a double-double as he grabbed 11 of the team's 45 rebounds.

For the season, Jake Layman leads the Terps with 16.4 ppg, and he tacks on 5.9 rpg while shooting a blistering 51.1 percent from beyond the arc. Both Smotrycz (13.7 ppg) and Wells (12.9 ppg) are averaging in double figures, with the former spearheading the team's rebounding effort with 7.6 caroms per contest. A total of four guys have double-digit assists, and the team as a whole is shooting 45.9 percent from the floor, which includes an even 40 percent effort on its 3-point tries, all in the name of 74.3 ppg. Defensively, Maryland is giving up 62.1 ppg, with foes knocking down only 38.7 percent of their total shots while committing 15 turnovers per game.

Ohio State's bread and butter this season has been its ability to play shut- down defense, as its opponents are scoring just 53.3 ppg, which is the second- lowest yield in the nation heading into action this week. Foes are shooting just 35.3 percent from the field, 24.5 percent from long range, and they are in the red with regard to both rebounding (-4.3) and turnovers (-5.2). OSU boasts four double-digit scorers, but considering the top three all net 11.3 ppg, and the last 11.0 ppg, balance has been the key here in the early going. Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Amir Williams, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott give coach Thad Matta a multitude of options on which to rely, as each also serves valuable roles in other areas -- from Williams with his 8.3 rpg and 12 blocks, to Craft's 32 assists and 15 steals.

Ohio State blew out North Florida last Friday, 99-64, getting 18 points from Williams, 17 each from LaQuinton Ross and Amedeo Della Valle, 16 from Craft, and 10 from Smith, Jr. The Buckeyes shot an eye-popping 69.2 percent from the floor, draining 14-of-23 3-point attempts, while holding the overmatched Ospreys to 38.5 percent field goal efficiency, and goading them into 18 turnovers.

As well as Maryland has performed of late, the team will have to play above its means to have a shot of knocking off the Buckeyes on their home floor. Expect OSU to get contributions from its usual cast of characters, and for the Columbus faithful to have plenty to cheer about as their beloved club remains undefeated.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 71, Maryland 62

12/04 10:31:09 ET

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