The ESPN cameras kept panning back to Ohio State coach Nick Myers with his blank expression and both hands yanking down on the collar of his pullover, and a Buckeyes player weeping behind his lacrosse mask.
The team went into the NCAA championship game thinking it had what it took to take down top-ranked Maryland in what amounted to a second Big Ten championship game, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The Terps were too good and too hungry, and they defeated the Buckeyes 9-6 in a defensive chess game on Monday before 28,971 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Maryland (16-3) had walked off the field a loser in its previous nine championship game appearances, including 2015 and ’16, since winning in 1975.
Ohio State (16-5) had never gone beyond the quarterfinal round until this season, but Myers and the players kept talking about winning a national championship.
“They created a new standard both on the field and off — an expectation — and really helped define what we refer to as the Buckeye Way,’’ Myers said. “I have this immense pride. I think that we have certainly been on the map. This was a big step.
“That day before the selection show there was no one in that locker room who thought we weren’t going to play another three weeks. We believed we belonged on this Final Four stage.’’
Maryland held Ohio State offensive powerhouses Tre Leclaire and Eric Fannell to one goal and no goals, respectively.
Another key for the Terps was unheralded Jon Garino winning 10 of 14 faceoffs against Big Ten specialist of the year Jake Withers.
A goal from 10 feet out by Colin Chell gave the Buckeyes a 2-1 lead with 5:08 left in the first quarter, but they did not score again until a little more than four minutes into the third quarter when Logan Maccani cut Maryland’s lead to 5-3.
The Terps took command when Matt Rambo scored his lone goal for an 8-3 lead with 10:36 left to play.
Then the Buckeyes played their best lacrosse when Withers won a faceoff and rushed downfield for a goal from 8 feet and Leclaire and Johnny Pearson followed with goals to make it 8-6 with 2:25 left.
“I think there is a ton of pride and a ton of belief in that locker room, and I think we’ve been in that position a couple of times before,’’ senior midfielder Tyler Pfister of Upper Arlington said. “As we caught fire there a little bit, that belief was definitely kindled again.’’
But after a timeout by Ohio State, Maryland goalkeeper Dan Morris stopped a shot from the perimeter by Leclaire with 1:46 remaining.
Maryland’s Tim Rotanz hit the back of an empty net with 58.1 seconds left to make it 9-6 when Buckeyes goalkeeper Tom Carey left the cage to help pressure the ball in a desperate attempt to regain possession.
Carey, a senior, helped keep the team in the game with 13 saves.
“It has been a heck of a ride and I couldn’t be happier and have more pride to finish it out here with these guys,’’ he said.