After Penn State’s loss to Illinois on Tuesday, the stage is set for No. 7 Maryland to push toward a Big Ten title. The Terrapins (22-4, 12-3 Big Ten) entered the weekend with a two-game lead in the conference standings and just five regular season games remaining. As things stand now, the only ranked foe standing between the Terrapins and a title is Ohio State.
The No. 25 Buckeyes (17-9, 7-8) will try to snap Maryland’s nine-game winning streak on Sunday and knock off their fourth top-10 foe of the season. Ohio State also defeated Villanova, Kentucky and North Carolina when each were in the top-10. It’s been an up-and-down for the Buckeyes, who were once No. 2 in the country. But they can hit their biggest up yet with a Sunday upset.
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Maryland: Jalen Smith has racked up nine straight double-doubles, a stretch that matches the Terrapins’ winning streak. The 6-foot-10 sophomore is a potential first-round NBA Draft pick and could be in line for some major collegiate hardware. Smith is not the only hot Maryland player, though. Senior guard Anthony Cowan is averaging a career-high 16.7 points for the season and 19.3 over the last eight games. Cowan was especially clutch late in last week’s huge 67-60 win at Michigan State. He showed he is unafraid of the big moment, and Maryland showed it is unafraid of the the big stage.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are back in the AP Top 25 following a four-week absence. But after losing at Iowa on Thursday, they will need to beat Maryland if they want to stay in the poll. Doing so will likely require a big effort from leading scorer Kaleb Wesson, who will be asked to rival Smith. Wesson outscored Smith 15-11 in Ohio State’s 67-55 loss at Maryland on Jan. 7 But Smith has continued to improve since then. Another difference maker for the Buckeyes could be freshman forward E.J. Liddell. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench, both career highs, in Ohio State’s loss at Iowa on Thursday. Ohio State could use continued contributions off the bench from the top-50 prospect in the 2019 recruiting class.
Game prediction, pick
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Latest odds via SportsLine: Ohio State -2.5
Ohio State enters with the best 3-point shooting percentage in Big Ten games of any team in the league (36.7%) while Maryland enters as the second-best at defending the 3-point line (league opponents are shooting just 29.6% from 3-point range against Maryland). The bet here is that defense wins. Pick: Maryland + 2.5
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