COLLEGE PARK, Md. – To hear Marc Loving talk about it, tonight was any other game for the Ohio State senior.


Buckeyes coach Thad Matta knows differently. Undermanned and in a hostile environment at the Xfinity Center, Ohio State went to its lone senior early and late in what was one of the most dominant performances of his career. Loving scored a game-high 24 points, including 10 of Ohio State’s final 17, and shot the Buckeyes back to within striking distance against No. 21 Maryland.


“God dang, he was good today,” Matta told me.


Statistically, this year has been a step back for Loving. Entering tonight, his scoring average was down from 14.0 a season ago to 11.7 and had dropped in Big Ten play from 13.2 to 11.8. In 11 games this season, he has had at least as many turnovers as made field goals.


Tonight, Loving hit a season-high eight field goals and tied a season high with four three-pointers while playing the entire game. When the Buckeyes missed their first 10 shots in the game, it was Loving who settled them with a pair of free throws and then the first made basket of the game.


Three times in the final eight minutes, Maryland pushed its lead to double digits only for Loving to answer with a jumper. Down 77-66 with 3:41 left, Loving hit consecutive threes to make it a five-point game and give the Buckeyes a chance.


“My teammates were just screening and looking for me and I just happened to knock down some shots,” Loving told me. “Personally, I feel I’ve always been capable. We just want to get wins anyway possible. It doesn’t matter who’s shooting the ball.”


That much was true, starting point guard C.J. Jackson said.


“Marc knows that we have complete confidence in him,” he told me. “When he’s hitting shots like that he’s an unbelievable player. As a player on the court, you see somebody hot, obviously you want to get them the ball.”


Wednesday night against Rutgers, Loving took a blow to the head that required five stitches above his left eye. He finished with eight points and three turnovers, and Matta said today that Loving told him the injury had affected him against the Scarlet Knights.


It didn’t affect him against the Terrapins. Whether it will affect him Tuesday night at Michigan State remains to be seen, but with five regular-season games left in his Ohio State career Loving said he’s not feeling the pressure.


“No, I haven’t looked at the sand in the clock to see how much time is left,” he said. “I just want to take advantage of every opportunity that I have and go out there and get a win.”



Loving got plenty of help from junior forward Jae’Sean Tate, who shook off a rough start to become the 54th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. Tate missed his first six shots from the floor and didn’t hit a field goal until 2:50 remained in the first half.


He still finished with 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, meaning he hit seven of his final 10 shots. It’s his fifth 20-plus-point game of the year and the 12th straight game in which he’s scored in double figures.


A 17.9 percent three-point shooter, Tate even banked one in – his sixth make of the season.


“He kept going,” Matta said. “I thought he competed, man, I really did.”



Last year’s game here was ugly, and this one looked to have a chance to similarly turn south for the Buckeyes. Maryland used a strong first-half closing run to take a 48-30 lead into the half and then blew it open early, leading by as many as 44 points in the 100-65 win that is the most-lopsided defeat during Matta’s tenure.


This year, Maryland led 45-31 at the half – a four-point improvement for the Buckeyes. The largest lead was 16 points, a 28-point improvement.


Maryland shot 62.7 percent here last year against Ohio State and was 52.4 percent from three. This year, those numbers were 49.1 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from three.


Of the 65 points Ohio State did score, only 37 of them suited up today. The 77 points are the second-most the Buckeyes have scored in a Big Ten game this year.


But it all adds up to a loss.


“What happened last year was embarrassing, but this is still embarrassing, losing a game,” Loving said. “I’m just happy we competed and we’ve got to try our best to get the next one.”



The Buckeyes entered today’s game with a faint pulse on the NCAA Tournament bubble. CBS senior writer Jerry Palm had them as his final team in the tournament, and this was a chance to make the committee take note of Ohio State.


Instead, the Buckeyes are now winless in six games against ranked opponents this year. They drop to 1-7 against top-25 RPI teams and are 2-8 against top-50 RPI teams.


Ohio State is now 4-15 when playing a road game as an unranked team at a ranked team under Matta.


The eight conference losses are tied for the most in Matta’s tenure.



“We were undermanned and in foul trouble the whole game. That really made it challenging. As I told our guys, the things we said we were going to make Maryland do to beat us, they did. They made some big plays. We were a little bit soft in the first half guarding the three. A lot of those threes came with under 10 on the shot clock. Probably weren’t good enough defensively on that. We were a little bit disheveled there.


“They did the things they needed to do to beat us when they needed to do them.” – Matta