With barely less than three minutes to play in a three-point game, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon turned to his all-Big Ten point guard and gave him a simple command.
“Take over,” he told Melo Trimble.
It’s a luxury the No. 17 Terrapins have that hasn’t been afforded to the Buckeyes for two seasons, and it made a difference. With Ohio State starting point guard JaQuan Lyle on the bench for the final 12:12 and a patchwork lineup of reserves and starters playing with effort, Trimble shook off a slow start to score seven of his 13 points in the final 2:02 to send the Buckeyes to a 77-71 loss in front of 12,887 at Value City Arena.
“We’ve got to find a way to beat a great basketball team,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Tonight we had opportunities and we didn’t get it done.”
Following a familiar script, Ohio State (13-10, 3-7 Big Ten) couldn’t overcome a double-digit deficit. This time, Maryland (20-2, 8-1) led by 10 points as late as 13:37 before the Buckeyes mounted multiple unsuccessful comeback attempts. With Lyle on the bench, Ohio State pulled within one point on four different occasions.
The final chance came with 2:35 remaining when backup point guard C.J. Jackson made two free throws to make it a 70-69 Terrapins lead. But at the other end, with seconds left on the shot clock, Trimble made his only three-pointer of the game on six attempts to push it back to a two-possession game.
Senior Marc Loving hit a jumper to close to 73-71, but after the Buckeyes got a stop, Loving’s attempt to tie the score with 1:01 remaining didn’t fall, and Trimble hit a jumper at the other end.
“I just think that at those certain times that we’ve just got to believe we’ve got another gear,” said junior Jae’Sean Tate, who had 20 points. You’ve got to have even more of a sense of urgency. You’ve got to want it more than the other team. I felt at times we didn’t do that.
“If we get it within one, we have to get the stop and all five guys gotta be connected out there. We just didn’t do that enough tonight.”
After a disappointing loss Saturday at Iowa, Matta juggled his lineups. Micah Potter replaced Trevor Thompson as the starting center, and he played key second-half minutes often alongside reserves Andre Wesson and Jackson.
Matta said he sat Lyle, his leading scorer in Big Ten play, because Jackson was being more disruptive against Maryland’s ball screens. Lyle had a plus-minus rating of minus-12, worst among all players.
“I thought at the end of the game those five guys were competing as hard as they possibly could,” Matta said. “Tonight we were coaching in the moment. We thought those guys had given us a great opportunity.”
Ohio State has lost seven straight games against ranked opponents and is 2-8 when allowing teams to score more than 70 points this season.