No. 21 Maryland men's basketball has the best home record in the Big Ten and is tied for the worst on the road.
Head coach Kevin Willard insisted his team is “close” to winning on the road leading up to Maryland’s road matchup with Ohio State. After an overtime loss at Nebraska and a close loss at Michigan State, he wasn't wrong. But for a team vying for a top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, close doesn’t cut it.
Against Ohio State on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio, Maryland wasn't particularly close, as the Buckeyes controlled Maryland all game en route to a 73-62 win.
“This one’s disappointing,” Willard said. “We just looked very lethargic, which hasn’t been this team, so this is kind of disappointing.”
Maryland moved to 1-8 in conference road games this season and 11-8 overall with its season finale at Penn State on Sunday.
Maryland’s start mirrored almost every game it’s played away from College Park in conference play this season: an ugly, discombobulated offensive effort that led to a deficit within the first few minutes.
Maryland averages 12 fewer points on the road than at home. That remarkable difference was evident early as Maryland took ill-advised shots and was out-of-sorts offensively. After knocking down 14 threes in its last win over Northwestern in College Park on Sunday, Maryland missed its first three 3-pointers Wednesday.
Maryland briefly led 4-2, but Ohio State ripped off a 12-0 run to give the Buckeyes a 10-point lead less than four minutes in, prompting Willard to burn a timeout.
“[We] just did some things early on in the game again that, you know, you just scratch your head,” Willard said.
The Terps went on a run themselves in an attempt to claw back in the game, but a stretch of four Maryland turnovers in three minutes allowed Ohio State to maintain its lead.
Maryland’s scoring lulls inhibited it from consistently setting up its disruptive press — one that has tripped up just about the entire conference this season.
Ohio State is in the basement of the Big Ten despite high expectations entering the season. The Buckeyes lost nine straight games before upsetting Illinois Sunday.
A team that has virtually nothing to play for in the final week of the season played like it had nothing to lose. Ohio State shot the ball at a high clip and terminated any Maryland first-half run with a bucket of its own.
While Maryland’s offense settled in with Jahmir Young, Donta Scott and Julian Reese carrying the scoring, the Terps’ defense struggled to get stops. At halftime, Ohio State led 35-29.
When these teams met back on Jan. 8 in College Park, Ohio State led by five at the break. But behind its home crowd, Maryland ripped off a 14-0 run to eventually defeat a ranked Buckeye group.
While Maryland has been praised for its halftime adjustments this season and how it has competed in the second half, it started the second half as uneasy as it did the first.
Maryland made just one of its first five attempts in the second half and trailed by 13 with over 15 minutes to go.
“Some of these guys, they just haven't learned, at times, it’s like, if you don’t have the hot hand, in that situation let’s drive to the basket, we’re in the double bonus, let’s try to get to the free throw line,” Willard said of Maryland’s offensive struggles.
Despite the home team having all the momentum, Maryland never quit. The Terps slowly chipped away, putting together stops and scores to cut its deficit to nine with eight and a half minutes to go.
Scott was whistled for his fourth foul with over eight minutes to play, forcing him to take a seat on the bench for over three minutes. Ohio State dealt with foul trouble throughout the night, too. Buckeye guard Isaac Likekele fouled out with six minutes to go.
Maryland made a late push to cut Ohio State’s deficit to eight, but the Buckeyes exploded on a 7-0 run, which led to Willard using his last timeout with three and a half minutes to play. Maryland never recovered in a disappointing loss.
Julian Reese, who’s become a double-double machine with four straight, finished with 17 points and 12 boards and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise poor performance. Don Carey was the only other Terp in double figures with 14 points, his second straight game with double-digit points.
Three things to know
1. Maryland can’t figure out how to win on the road. Whether it’s the travel, the tough road atmospheres or the lack of routine in a different arena and state, Maryland isn’t a good basketball team on the road. Most teams, if not all, are better at home than on the road. But how good the Terps are at home — 10-0 in conference play — compared to how bad they are on the road — 1-8 in conference — is jarring.
“Crowds have affected us,” Willard said. “When teams are going on runs, we’re rushing on offense.”
2. Ian Martinez has been a consistent cog for the Terps. Ian Martinez had eight straight points for Maryland to help the Terps chip away at their deficit in the second half. He finished with eight points in 22 minutes. Martinez’s offensive production wasn't an anomaly. He’s been consistent for Maryland all season and someone Willard relies on to produce off the bench. In a tournament setting, Maryland will need its bench to produce, specifically Martinez.
3. Sunday’s season finale is a must-win. The No. 2 seed and the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten are separated by just a couple games. With the loss, Maryland moved out of second place in the Big Ten. If Maryland loses another road game in its season finale at Penn State on Sunday, it could drop all the way down to eighth place in the standings, depending on how the rest of the conference fairs in its final games. Just 24 hours ago, there was serious discussion of Maryland becoming the No. 2 seed in the conference. There’s still a chance Maryland can earn a top-four seed and double-bye in the tournament, but it must beat Penn State this weekend.