Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
COLLEGE PARK--In the days leading up to Maryland’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup with Ohio State on Wednesday night in Columbus, Conner Lipinski was Aaron Craft.
Lipinski, a Maryland guard and former walk-on, was selected in practice to imitate and represent Craft, the Buckeyes’ point guard who was Second Team All-Big Ten a season ago, as the team prepared for its first true road game of the season.
So how was Lipinski’s emulation of Craft, who has a penchant for shutting down some of the nation’s best guards?
“Not a great one,” head coach Mark Turgeon told the media on Tuesday. “Not a great one.”
That evaluation probably has less to do with Lipinski and more to do with Craft’s excellence, making the 6-2, 195-pound Ohio State senior Public Enemy No. 1 of Maryland’s offense on Wednesday night.
Craft has been a mainstay with Ohio State over the course of his college career, known as a defensive pest after averaging at least 2.0 steals per game in each of his three-plus seasons so far.
“He’s good defensively, so it’s a big concern,” Turgeon said. “Our guys have gotten better. We’ve worked on it, gotten some pressure releases.
“I think Dez [Wells] has gotten better. I think Roddy [Peters] has gotten better, but it’s everybody. Nick [Faust]’s got to be good with the ball. Jake [Layman]’s got to be good with the ball. There’s a lot of variables that come in.”
Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier were about as difficult a backcourt duo as Maryland could have faced in its opener against Connecticut, just then beginning to game plan and come to terms with the fact that point guard Seth Allen would be out until the new year after breaking his foot.
Craft is Boatright and Napier defensively and more. Few Terrapins know that better than Evan Smotrycz, who faced the Buckeyes six times in his career during his time with Michigan before transferring to College Park.
“Obviously, he’s a very good defender,” Smotrycz said. “If we can handle the pressure that the guards are going to put on our guards defensively, then I think we’ll have a good chance.”
For Maryland, that means Wells and Peters will need to control the basketball and not turn it over, which would lead to easy run-outs and points in transition for Ohio State.
As Turgeon noted, Wells has improved and become more comfortable at the point guard spot since Allen’s injury. Wells turned the ball over six times in the season opener against Connecticut, but had only six turnovers total in three games at Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
“They’re going to test us. But, we knew that when the schedule came out,” Turgeon said. “We’re much more prepared today that we were a month ago. I’m looking forward to just kind of seeing where we are against a big-time team in a big-time environment.”