Maryland men’s basketball, searching for answers, returns home for a matchup against No. 24 Ohio State.
The Terps have lost two straight games and four straight games against power conference opponents, the last three coming by an average margin of 25.3 points. Maryland has struggled to generate offense, especially in the first half. In those four games, Maryland has scored an average of 16.8 points in the first half while shooting 20.2% from the field (21-of-104). The poor starts are certainly concerning, and the stats associated with them are staggering.
Maryland’s last outing, less than 72 hours before tipoff against the Buckeyes, was a 64-50 loss to Rutgers Thursday. Despite rattling off multiple significant scoring droughts, Maryland’s defense kept the game within reach at the beginning of the second half. However, Rutgers used a 12-0 run to pull away from a once-four-point ballgame, never allowing Maryland within single digits again.
Sunday’s game against the Buckeyes will start at 1 p.m. and air on ESPN.
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten)
Head coach Chris Holtmann is in his sixth year at the helm of the Ohio State program after a successful three-year stint at Butler. Holtmann has made the last seven NCAA Tournaments, six of which his team has won at least one game. Ohio State has been a perennial threat since Holtmann arrived in Columbus, and this year is no different.
The Buckeyes are coming off a heartbreaking 71-69 home loss to No. 1 Purdue, a game in which they shot 50% from the field, turned the ball over just seven times and had the lead for 25 minutes and 39 seconds. Regardless, the Buckeyes have put themselves in a great position, racking up big-time wins against Rutgers and Texas Tech. Ohio State’s lone losses are to Purdue, San Diego State, Duke and North Carolina.
While the AP poll pegs Ohio State as the nation’s 24th best team, it ranks No. 9 in the NET, No. 11 in KenPom and No. 6 in ESPN’s BPI as of Saturday.
Players to know
Brice Sensabaugh, freshman forward, 6-foot-6, No. 10 — Florida’s Mr. Basketball from just a year ago has turned into a freshman sensation for the Buckeyes. Far and away the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, Sensabaugh has been one of the best freshmen in the entire nation. He is shooting 53.5% from the field and 45% from deep while being used on 29.1% of Ohio State’s possessions (68th-highest nationally) and taking 33.1% of its shots (16th-highest nationally). Sensabaugh is not only shining, but he is doing it on a remarkably high volume.
Justice Sueing, redshirt senior forward, 6-foot-6, No. 14 — A wily veteran, the sixth-year Sueing is making a major impact. After missing all but two games last season with an abdominal injury, Sueing is scoring 13.6 points per game while shooting 46.2% from the field. Sueing previously played at California from 2017-19.
Zed Key, junior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 23 — Key has made impressive strides this season, posting career-highs in points per game (12.4), rebounds per game (7.8), blocks per game (1.2) and shooting percentage (62.9%). Key is also 6-for-19 from 3-point range this season after not attempting a single triple in his first two seasons. His status for Sunday is in question after exiting with a shoulder injury after just four minutes against Purdue.
Offense. The Buckeyes showcase one of the sport’s best offenses, ranking second in Division I in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Ohio State averages 80.3 points per game, the third-most in the Big Ten. If Maryland fails to compete defensively, it could be a long day given the team’s recent offensive difficulties.
Forcing turnovers. Ohio State ranks No. 269 nationally in defensive turnover percentage and No. 322 nationally in steal percentage, per KenPom. The Buckeyes also have just the ninth-best average turnover margin (0.5) in the Big Ten. Maryland, which just had 20 turnovers against Rutgers, has no excuses for careless turnovers at home.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland capitalize at home? The shine from Maryland’s 8-0 start has disappeared, as the Terps are 2-5 in their last seven games and have fallen from No. 13 in the AP poll to the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Terps are just 1-5 in Quadrant 1 opportunities, and signature wins against Illinois and Saint Louis have lost their credibility based on the opponents’ respective performances as of late. A home game against Ohio State provides a golden opportunity for a signature win, but a third straight loss could send this team into a spiral.
2. Will Zed Key play? Key is instrumental to Ohio State’s success, and it was incredible that it nearly knocked off Purdue without him. If Key cannot go, Maryland will catch a major break. Sophomore forward Julian Reese and the rest of Maryland’s thin frontcourt have struggled against imposing bigs this season. Key’s likely starting replacement would be 6-foot-11 freshman center Felix Okpara, a four-star recruit who scored five points and grabbed five boards in 30 minutes against Purdue.
3. How will Donta Scott play? Scott was superb during the Terps’ 8-0 start, and the film proved it. In the first eight games of the season, Scott averaged 15.4 points and shot 49.5% from the field. Since then, he is shooting 31.2% from the field and scoring just 8.6 points per game. Obviously, Maryland will need Scott to play like he did earlier in the season to get the train back on the tracks.