COLUMBUS — Welcome to the Big Ten, Terps.
LaQuinton Ross scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half, hitting his first four 3-pointers, to send No. 5 Ohio State to an early lead and a 76-60 victory over Maryland on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It was Maryland’s last appearance in the annual conference matchup — well, at least as an Atlantic Coast Conference team. Next year, the Terrapins join the Buckeyes in the new 14-team Big Ten.
“We didn’t talk about it being our last one,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We just talked about Ohio State and obviously we didn’t do a good job playing against them. So give them credit.”
Sam Thompson added 14 points, including four rim-rattling dunks off alley-oop passes, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 12. Aaron Craft created havoc on defense and chipped in with 10 points as the Buckeyes (7-0) controlled the game at both ends.
“Basketball is basketball,” said ex-Xavier guard Dez Wells, who led Maryland with 19 points. “I don’t care what conference you’re in. That doesn’t matter to me.”
Ohio State blitzed the Terrapins (5-3) on defense — scoring 25 points off 14 turnovers. The Buckeyes also shot 60 percent on 3-pointers in the opening half and 52 percent from the field for the game.
The lead never dropped below double digits over the last 24 minutes, and the Buckeyes eased up after going up by 25 points in the second half.
Ohio State had struggled shooting in its first four games. But the Buckeyes lit it up for 69 percent from the field — the sixth-best mark in school history — during a 99-64 rout of North Florida on Saturday.
“We shot the ball well last game and we wanted to build off it,” said Craft, who finished with five steals and six assists.
“We just wanted to come out and not have a slow start, come out with our minds right. We were able to do that. Obviously, LaQuinton helped out a lot coming in and knocking down those early shots. And that kind of relaxes everybody else and gets them going.”
The Buckeyes led 43-26 at halftime and never really let the game leave their grasp.
Ross was the difference early, making those first four shots from behind the arc. After Maryland became more aware of him on the perimeter, Thompson scored on two high-flying, alley-oop dunks that shook the arena.
Behind Ross’ 12 points, the Buckeyes broke out to an 18-9 lead.
The Terrapins regrouped to trade baskets and pull to 27-20 before Thompson had five points and Ross the other three in an 8-0 run.
Leading 35-26, Ohio State went on another 8-0 run.
On the Terps’ final possession of the half, Craft dived on the floor and stole the ball in a scrum, then passed it out while on the floor. Thompson got the ball, spun in the lane on a breakaway and then banked in a layup just as the buzzer sounded.
“We took the timeout,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “We said, ‘Hey, they’re going to take one shot, we can get a little risky here in terms of pushing up our pressure.’ For him to get down on the floor and flick it up like that, it was just a tremendous play.”
Maryland made a mini-run in the second half, but Thompson ended that by going high over the rim to stuff in back-to-back passes, one from Shannon Scott and the other from Craft.
“Shannon and Craft are so good at forcing steals and getting us out in transition,” Thompson said. “They draw so much attention in the open floor that I just do the easy part and I finish. They’ve always put the ball right on the money. All I have to do
is just dunk it home.”