Maryland basketball’s bench has been largely effective this season, but its production had dipped in recent games. The backups totaled 16 points against Purdue and 19 against Penn State, and the Terps dropped both contests.
In Saturday’s 86-77 win over Ohio State, Maryland received 33 points from its bench, the highest total it’s gotten in conference play. The Buckeyes’ reserves, on the other hand, didn’t score a single point.
“I think you look at their team and Mark’s probably got the luxury of starting who he wants, in terms of the big rotation,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta told reporters after the game. “Those guys come in and appear to have a great understanding of what their job is.”
Jaylen Brantley led the charge with 11, including eight in a two-minute stretch in the first half. The junior followed a layup with a pair of three-pointers, making him the Terps’ leading scorer at the time.
Brantley had just six points in Maryland’s previous four games; he was just 2-for-11 from the field during that stretch. But the junior broke through again Saturday.
“Jaylen wasn’t coming off his best game (1-of-5 for three points at Penn State), and you could tell it was eating at him,” Turgeon said. “He couldn’t wait to play today.”
Ivan Bender came alive in the second half, tallying six points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. He hadn’t put any numbers up in three first-half minutes, but Bender responded after Damonte Dodd’s foul trouble forced the issue.
“I thought Ivan Bender in the second half was our best post defender,” Turgeon said. “He kinda had a feel for [Ohio State], so I stuck with him a little more in the second half.”
The Terps also got important contributions from center Michal Cekovsky and forward L.G. Gill. Cekovsky recorded six points on 3-of-3 shooting and hauled in four defensive rebounds. Gill notched six points and two boards. Jared Nickens chipped in the remaining three points on a first-half triple from the corner.
Ohio State entered the game without regular starting guard JaQuan Lyle, who was tending to a family issue. As a result, sophomore C.J. Jackson was inserted into the starting lineup for just the third time this season, and the Buckeyes’ bench was even more thin than usual. Andre Wesson, Micah Potter and David Bell played a combined 36 minutes and scored zero points; Potter picked up five fouls in just 14 minutes, fouling out with 4:09 remaining.
“We were undermanned and in foul trouble the whole game, and it really made it challenging,” Matta said. “But as I told our guys, the things we said we were going to make Maryland do to beat us, they did.”
The Terps had 10 players contribute to the offense Saturday, while Ohio State had just its starting five. Each of Maryland’s reserves played at least 10 minutes, which kept everyone else fresh.
“Coach always talks about, ‘We need good bench production,’ so I feel like if we come out and just be aggressive from when we finally get in the game, it helps keep [the starters] well-rested,” Brantley said.
Starting guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter may have made the biggest splashes Saturday, with 19 and 18 points, respectively. But when every available player joins in, Maryland is tough to take down. The team will need that kind of production when it goes on the road to play Northwestern and No. 7 Wisconsin.
“That’s been our team all year,” Cowan said. “It’s not only the starting five who are supposed to get the job done. It’s the whole team. That’s what it takes every day.”