Maryland men’s basketball pulled off one of its biggest wins of the season when it upset No. 22 Ohio State Sunday evening. The Terps defeated the Buckeyes 75-60 in front of a 15,842-person crowd.
“Just the energy that the fans brought and the atmosphere kind of reminded me, you know, like that year we won a Big Ten championship,” senior guard Eric Ayala said. “There’s that whole atmosphere when everybody came out and it was a big game for us.”
Graduate guard Fatts Russell and Ayala combined for 50 of the Terps’ points while junior forward Donta Scott also had a big night for Maryland finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds (five offensive boards) as well as two assists, one block and three steals.
With the win, Maryland picked up its third victory over a ranked opponent after defeating then-No. 20 Florida and then-No. 17 Illinois earlier this season.
Here are three takeaways from the Terps’ sixth conference win of the season.
Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala shined for the Terps.
The duo finished the day with 50 of the Terps’ 75 points putting together one of their strongest joint performances of the season.
“Those guys also had some moments where they were facilitating and getting into the paint, drawing fouls,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “And that was something that was really big between them —they drew nine fouls.”
As they’ve shown flashes of throughout the season, Russell and Ayala can contribute in other ways aside from scoring but against the Buckeyes, they seemed to do it all.
Ayala finished the first half with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting including one three. He scored 11 of those points consecutively over about a two-minute time span.
The senior guard most recently scored just three points in 28 minutes last game against Indiana and is coming off a wrist injury. The last time Ayala scored over 10 points was against Penn State on Feb. 21 but before that, he had not done so since the Terps hosted Michigan State on Feb. 1. He put up 15 points in that matchup.
“Their backcourt was tremendous,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had no answer for their backcourt.”
Russell had eight points in the first half on 3-for-7 shooting also including one 3-pointer.
The graduate guard has been an impact player for the Terps all season but has been a key player for the Terps especially as of late. Russell has scored in double-digits in every matchup since Jan, 21. and in 29 games, has scored less than 10 points just five times.
Coming into this game, Russell led the team in scoring averaging 14.4 points per game. The guard also leads the team in steal with a total of 102 which comes out to an average of 3.64 per game. The player with the next most assists on the team: Ayala. However, the senior has nearly half the assists as Russell with a total of 56 through 28 games.
With about 13 and a half minutes remaining, Ohio State closed Maryland’s lead to just one point. Freshman forward Julian Reese pulled in an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Russell who was behind the arc and sank the basket to give Maryland some wiggle room.
This continued to happen and in the final minutes, Russell put the exclamation point on the win and hit two more long 3-pointers.
In this game, Russell eclipsed the 2,000 career-point mark and continued to display that when he has the hot hand, Maryland’s play is turned up a notch.
“It’s been a long five years, man,” Russell said. “It means a lot, I’ve been through a lot, just happy to achieve that milestone.”
Maryland did a much better job slowing down E.J. Liddell than the first time around.
The last time these two teams met, E.J. Liddell was all over the place for Ohio State. He put up a team-high 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
The narrative was different in this one.
Liddell put up 11 points, grabbed six rebounds and had just one assist. The junior forward shot just 3-for-10 from the field, missing all five of his 3-point attempts but went a perfect 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.
“We did a really good job of trying to get a hand in his face [on] [on]all of his attempts,” Manning said.
This game marked the first time since Jan. 18 that a team held Liddell to less than 15 points. The last time that occurred was against Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and has only happened on six occasions excluding this most recent matchup with Maryland.
The Terps have struggled to hold top scorers below their averages spanning from Vermont’s Ben Shungu in early nonconference play all the way to Iowa’s Keegan Murray who leads the Big Ten in scoring. However, this second time against Ohio State, the Terps figured out a way to prevent Liddell from controlling the game.
Overall, the Terps’ defense got the job done.
Maryland held Ohio State to shoot 36% from the field, 29% from deep and forced the Buckeyes to turn the ball over 11 times. Maryland capitalized on those mistakes scoring 18 points off the takeaways.
Scott led the charge on the boards collecting a game-high nine while also putting up 14 points in the process. Maryland outrebounded the Buckeyes 37-32.
Maryland seems to have found a little momentum.
After letting Iowa score 110 points at the Xfinity Center, Maryland seemed to tighten up its defense and try to turn things around.
The Terps traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana, to face then-No. 3 Purdue and nearly walked away with the win falling by just one point and fighting throughout the entire game.
Next up came back-to-back wins at Nebraska and against Penn State. In both of those matchups Maryland was favored to win and it gave the Terps consecutive conference wins for just the second time this season.
Maryland then couldn't seem to keep up with Indiana when it faced the Hoosiers on the road losing by 10 points but came back three days later to pick up this gigantic win.
The Terps are now just one game below .500 and have two regular season matchups remaining: Minnesota and at Michigan State.
Maryland has yet to play Minnesota but stands ahead of the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten standings as Minnesota has just four conference wins. Michigan State, on the other hand, Maryland has played once before this year.
The Terps nearly took down Michigan State, then ranked at No. 13 but couldn’t string together the pieces in the final seconds ultimately falling by a mere two points. It will be tougher to take on the Spartans in East Lansing, Michigan, but Maryland came dangerously close to toppling them at home.
Although it is a challenging task, Maryland has two tests to finish the season with a winning record and it seems to be catching speed just a few games before the Big Ten tournament.
“At a time like this, we dangerous,” Ayala said. “We’re the team that nobody wants to see.”