Riding a three-game conference losing streak and five-game losing spell against power conference opponents, Maryland men’s basketball desperately needed a win to steer itself back in the right direction.
When his team needed it most, graduate guard Jahmir Young stepped up and provided a much-needed boost, putting together a dominant 30-point, 11-rebound performance to lead the Terps (11-5, 2-3 Big Ten) to a 80-73 home victory over No. 24 Ohio State (10-5, 2-2) Sunday afternoon.
“Just trying to do anything to win,” Young said. “My teammates believe in me and I believe in them, so just doing whatever it takes. ... Just coming back, getting on our home court felt great. I’m just trying to come out here and be aggressive from the start.”
All five of Maryland’s starters — Young, Don Carey, Hakim Hart, Donta Scott and Julian Reese — scored at least 10 points. It was a vastly improved offensive showing for a team that had gone freezing cold shooting the ball in recent contests.
Maryland’s last two games were nothing short of ugly on the offensive end, especially at the start. The Terps scored 13 points in the first half at Michigan and 17 in the opening 20 minutes at Rutgers, putting themselves in a hole they couldn’t dig out of.
The start of Sunday’s game was the complete opposite, though, with both teams reaching double digits just over five minutes in, five of the first six made field goals coming from 3-point range. It took less than seven and a half minutes before the Terps outdid their 17-point first-half performance from last Thursday.
“We’re just trying to stay level-headed,” Young said. “We’re great players so they’re gonna fall. Just trying to take the right ones. You know, just step in and shoot it with confidence. Gonna miss some, gonna make some, but, you know, the best players in the world miss shots. It’s about the next one you’re gonna take.”
The intensity that Maryland came out with was reminiscent of that from its 8-0 start to the season, applying tight pressure on the defensive end and picking up a full-court press after made baskets. It wasn’t sloppy either, as the Terps didn’t commit a turnover for over 10 minutes.
“These last couple games, we’ve had a hard time scoring the ball so that affects us being able to press,” said Young. “Today, us being able to score the ball in the first half allows us to press and really just get after them.”
As the half wound down, however, Maryland fell back on some old, poor habits. It went completely cold from the field, missing 15 of its final 16 shots of the period. The turnovers began to pile up too, the Terps committing seven by the half’s end.
The opportunities were there for the Terps to build a commanding lead in the middle part of the first half, but they weren’t taken advantage of. The Buckeyes were shorthanded, missing junior forward Zed Key, their leader in rebounds by nearly three per game. He was ruled out before tipoff because of a shoulder injury suffered in Ohio State’s narrow defeat to No. 1 Purdue Thursday, contributing to the Terps out-rebounding the Buckeyes by 14.
“We missed his physicality. We missed his ability to post him and play through him at times,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said of Key.
Reese, who had plenty of opportunities with Ohio State’s top post player missing, didn’t provide show-stopping finishing, but managed to break into double figures with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, adding eight rebounds.
Like the Terps, the Buckeyes weren’t particularly dominant on the offensive end, but took a 39-34 lead and plenty of momentum into the halftime break on the back of their 6-of-11 shooting from three.
Had it not been for the play of Young, the Terps wouldn’t have been within striking distance entering the second half. He led Maryland in both points (13) and rebounds (8) at the intermission, getting to the free-throw line eight times to keep the points coming in at a slow but steady rate when shots weren’t falling.
“Especially early in the game, I felt Jahmir, even when he was missing shots, I thought he was aggressive,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “Like, just staying tenacious after the ball, getting offensive rebounds, getting fouled. I thought that gave us a huge jump.”
For as cold as they were ending the first half, the Terps came out just as hot to start the second. Their pressure forced four consecutive Buckeye turnovers and led to a string of made baskets, racing out to a seven-point lead with a 12-0 run.
“Coming out we just had to make sure that we make the emphasis on [deflecting passes], trying to get possessions, trying to speed them up and turn them over,” Young said. “So we did that and was able to get good shots in return.”
Maryland was rolling offensively, extending its lead to as much as 14, but couldn’t put a resilient Ohio State team away. After Reese was assessed a technical foul for taunting a Buckeyes player after a made layup — the fourth technical foul given out by the officials Sunday — Ohio State went on a run, cutting the lead to three.
Freshman sensation Brice Sensabaugh led the charge for the Buckeyes, finishing with 22 points to lead his team. Sensabaugh is the conference’s top-scoring freshman and has established himself as one of the nation’s best first-year players. When asked about his plan for defending Sensabaugh the day prior to the game, Willard joked that the best part about the top freshmen in the Big Ten is “that they won’t be around next year.”
Redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing was the second-top scorer for Ohio State, just behind Sensabaugh with 21 points of his own.
Maryland refused to let Ohio State come all the way back, though, and Sensabaugh fouled out, effectively sealing the win for the Terps.
“We’ve been on the road at Wisconsin, at Michigan, at Rutgers, three really tough places to play. ... It was just good to be home. I think these guys just felt good sleeping in their own bed, not traveling. It’s nice to have a home game,” Willard said.
Three things to know
1. Maryland didn’t start slow. In its last few losses, Maryland doomed itself from the start with ineffective offense that allowed opponents to pull away. While the Terps certainly went through shooting slumps and struggled putting the ball in the basket at times, their ability to keep pace with the Buckeyes from the jump was key.
2. Jahmir Young put the team on his back. Young has been a steady presence for Maryland at the point guard position this season and has been the best player in its two Big Ten wins. Young had 24 points, including a game-sealing 3-pointer, in the Terps’ victory over Illinois and topped that with a career-high 30 points against the Buckeyes. He became the first Maryland guard to have 30 points and 10 rebounds in a game since Greivis Vasquez did so against North Carolina on Feb. 21, 2009.
3. The Terps got back on track at home. Maryland’s season looked like it could be taking a quick turn for the worse after two straight ugly losses, but it got the job done against a ranked Ohio State team to get back on track. Next, after a week off, the Terps will travel to play at Iowa to start a grueling stretch of six conference games in 16 days.