COLUMBUS — Sitting in front of reporters following Ohio State’s 80-64 win over Michigan State on Sunday, Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann admitted that he was surprised.
“No, I’m surprised,” he said. “Yeah. Coaches get surprised. I got surprised. I’m surprised. And we’ll see, right? We don’t know at this point, we could go in the tank for the next couple of weeks. We certainly don’t want this moment to define us. And we don’t want it to be the pinnacle of our season, as good as it is. And that’s the challenge for us moving forward.”
That challenge was accepted by his team on Thursday night, as the Buckeyes put it to Maryland, flipping the Terrapins on their backs to the tune of a 91-69 shellacking.
Maryland was a bit undermanned, dealing with injuries and illnesses, but Ohio State wasn’t interested in taking it easy on the Terps.
After the Michigan State game, Holtmann said he was curious how his team would respond, and the response was just about perfect.
The first 10 minutes weren’t all that pleasing to Holtmann, but the Buckeyes would score 31 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, and then continue to distance themselves from Maryland in the second half.
With a second-consecutive blowout of one of the Big Ten’s top tier teams, the only thing left to be surprised about is the way the Buckeyes shot the ball. After all, 17-of-29 from three-point territory isn’t necessarily repeatable. What is repeatable, however, is the effort that it takes to get open shots, as well as the activity required to keep an opponent from getting the same kind of looks.
“No, I don’t think you ever – it’s an expectation that our effort and attention to detail and our focus is what it needs to be. I don’t think we can ever expect to make 17 threes in a game. I think that’s unrealistic,” Holtmann said. “We made some shots tonight that on an average night we’re probably not going to make. We threw some things in there, although our guys did a great job sharing the ball. A great job sharing the ball. But I don’t think you can necessarily expect these kind of offensive numbers.
“What we need to expect as a coaching staff is that we’ll have 40 minutes of better attention to detail and a defensive focus about us. And like I said, I think our guys did that for about 30 minutes. I need to get them more ready for those first 10 minutes.”
What was it that Maryland was doing?
“I thought they came out with a terrific plan and they came out kind of ready to shrink the floor on us and take away some options,” he said. “I thought they were way more physical and tougher than we were in the first 10 minutes, but our guys responded.”
The responses are becoming commonplace now, which breeds expectations.
Coming into the game, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon thought his Terrapins would be able to catch Ohio State in a bout of overconfidence, and he believes they did, but it just didn’t last very long.
“We did. We had a nine-point lead,” he said. “But they are so talented and very confident right now that they erased that. That nine-point lead went away. We went from up nine to down eight in about three minutes. We knew we weren’t getting the same shot that Michigan State got at the start of the game. But with that being said, Ohio State was really good tonight, again.”
Chris Holtmann was surprised by the way his team played against Michigan State. Heck, everyone was. That performance created a curiosity as to how the team would respond against Maryland in what was essentially an encore performance.
After seeing that performance, however, it is clear that from this point on the surprises in Big Ten play are gone. The league is up for grabs, and the Buckeyes already have two road wins and three home wins over possible NCAA Tournament teams.
The time of surprises is officially over. Long live the time of expectations.