After falling at home to Michigan on Sunday, No. 12 Maryland (12-6) suffered another defeat in Columbus to Ohio State (14-3).
The Terps played well offensively but had trouble containing former Maryland guard Taylor Mikesell, who went off for a career-high 33 points on 5-for-5 shooting from three.
Maryland was without head coach Brenda Frese, who was with family after the passing of her father, Bill.
The goal always was to go out, compete, and honor Bill and his family. And while it wasn’t the result they were hoping for, the team worked hard for 40 minutes.
“As a team, something we’ve talked about this week is honoring Bill’s legacy,” associate head coach Karen Blair, who took Frese’s place leading the team, said after the game. “He stood for hard work and family, and I’m happy with the performance by the team. I thought this team came out and they played their hearts out. So I think we made Bill and Brenda proud.”
Thursday’s defeat was the first Maryland has suffered against an unranked opponent, but Ohio State has spent several weeks in the AP Top-25 Poll this season.
Here are several takeaways from the loss in Columbus.
Maryland should not panic despite multiple losses to top-ranked opponents.
After Thursday’s loss, there was a lot of negativity flowing about the team's state.
In the Bahamas earlier in the season, Maryland played shorthanded against the current No. 2 and 3 teams in the country. Two players didn’t even make the trip, and junior guard Diamond Miller was still recovering from a knee injury that cost her the early portion of the season.
The next loss came at the hands of No. 1 South Carolina, the team that has been first in the AP Poll all season. On top of that, the game was played in the hostile confines of Colonial Life Arena.
During the defeat against No. 6 Indiana, which the Terps took to overtime, the team lost Faith Masonius — one of the side’s most consistent defenders and first player off the bench — to a torn ACL just nine minutes into the game.
As for the last two losses, both without Masonius, Maryland has been dealing with the loss of Bill and the impact his passing has had on both Frese and the program.
“Being in January, it’s one of the things you love about being in the Big Ten,” Blair said. “You see a lot of different types of basketball, and it’s only going to make us better come March. So I thought we showed that today. It was a lot of things for us to learn from it.”
Five of Maryland’s six losses have all come to ranked opponents with two of them coming against Big Ten opponents. With a 12-6 overall record, Maryland will have plenty of chances to bounce back. The next three matches — Northwestern, Rutgers and Penn State — will give the Terps a chance to get back on track.
“Mentally, you know, growing and getting better every day,” graduate forward Chloe Bibby added of the team’s mindset moving forward. “But it’s okay, we’ll get there.”
Scoring wasn’t the issue.
Against the Buckeyes, Maryland put up 89 points — seven and a half more than its season average — with five players reaching double-digit scoring.
Sophomore guard/forward Angel Reese led the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Bibby put up 20 and seven. Graduate guard Katie Benzan (16 points in 40 minutes), junior guard Ashley Owusu (12) and Miller (12) also contributed on the offensive end.
The issues for Maryland were on the defensive side of the ball. Ohio State, led by Mikesell and junior guard Jacy Sheldon, who had 24 points, four rebounds and 10 assists, accounted for a whopping 60% of their team’s points. The Buckeyes also went 8-for-14 from behind the arc and 33-for-60 from the field.
Maryland did force Ohio State into 15 turnovers, but surrendering 95 points to the Buckeyes was too much for it to overcome.
“We’re still having these little slip-ups that were allowing other teams to go on the run,” Blair said. “We’re still not defending that three-point line to the level that we want to and some of them we’re going to continue to work on and get better at.”
First-quarter woes carried over into this matchup.
For the second straight game, the Terps went into the second quarter down 10. A slow start can be the difference between a win and a loss in league play.
“Yeah, it’s been hard to dig ourselves into those holes in the first quarter,” Benzan said. “But it’s just an area of improvement for us. We’re gonna work on starting hungrier and more motivated. We need to start with a chip on our shoulders so that that doesn’t happen again.”
A glance at the box score reveals that the first quarter sank Maryland. The Terps outscored or matched their opponents in each of the remaining frames, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit they built themselves in the opening period.
In the six games the Terps have lost this season, Maryland’s opponents have outscored it 122-88 in the first quarter. The Terps trailed entering the second quarter in four of those matchups, were tied with then-No. 1 South Carolina at that point and had the lead against then-No. 8 Indiana.
“We just got to come out ready to play from the light turned on,” Bibby said. “We have to be ready. But, I mean, I was proud of that response at halftime. I thought we really came out and we competed.”