Maryland basketball captured its third straight win Saturday afternoon, beating Ohio State 72-62 in its return to College Park.
The No. 24 Terps led most of the way, and a 13-0 run early in the second half put them up by 16. Ohio State made a charge to cut the lead to just two points, but Maryland answered with seven straight and avoided a dramatic finish. Maryland is now 21-7 overall and 12-5 in the Big Ten, still sitting in fourth place and in position for a double bye in the conference tournament.
Anthony Cowan Jr. was consistent and effective, pouring in 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Bruno Fernando added 14 points, all in the second half, and pulled down 10 rebounds. Serrel Smith Jr. came up huge off the bench, notching 14 points in 19 minutes. With fellow freshman Eric Ayala playing just 10 minutes and missing the entire second half due to an illness, that production was needed. Darryl Morsell also finished in double figures with 11 points.
Andre Wesson led Ohio State with 13 points, while Duane Washington Jr. and Keyshawn Woods scored 11 and 10, respectively. Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer, went 3-of-12 for seven points. Point guard C.J. Jackson missed the game with an injury.
Maryland shot 49 percent from the field to Ohio State’s 37 percent, although the Buckeyes’ 11-of-33 mark (33 percent) from long range kept them in it. The Terps also won the rebounding battle 40-28, and despite committing 15 turnovers and forcing just seven, the Buckeyes only led 13-11 in points off takeaways.
Both teams started 1-of-6 from the field, but warmed up after the first media timeout. Maryland made 10 of its next 13 shots to pull ahead, and the Terps went on the first real run of the game, scoring seven straight points to take a 27-19 lead at the 4:50 mark. Ohio State followed with a 6-0 run of its own, closing the gap to 27-25 just over two minutes later. Serrel Smith Jr. closed the half strong, scoring the Terps’ final six points of the period to send them into the locker room up 33-28.
Fernando went scoreless in the first half for the second time in three games, but started the second half with a bucket and had seven points just 4:09 into the period. After Ohio State cut Maryland’s lead to three, the Terps went on a 13-0 run over the next five minutes to pull ahead by 16. Fernando and Cowan keyed the run, scoring 11 of those 13; Fernando reached double figures for the half and game at the 11:09 mark.
Ohio State answered, though, going on a quick 10-2 run to cut margin down to single digits. Morsell’s three made it 11 again briefly, but Kaleb Wesson and Washington nailed back-to-back triples to make it a 57-52 game with 6:44 remaining. Mark Turgeon called timeout, but Justin Ahrens hit a corner three to slash the lead to two.
But it was Maryland who made the last run. Smith Jr. was fouled on a triple and made all three foul shots, and Morsell sank two after a steal. Aaron Wiggins’ slam with 2:48 left made it a nine-point game and effectively iced the contest.
Maryland is back on the road Wednesday against Penn State. The Terps held off the Nittany Lions 66-59 in College Park on Dec. 1.
Three things to know
1. Maryland finished strong after letting Ohio State back in it. It’s never ideal to let a 16-point lead fall to two, but when the Buckeyes made their run, the Terps didn’t fold. Maryland’s young guards made the big plays down the stretch, keying a 7-0 run that secured the win.
2. Serrel Smith Jr. had a career night. The freshman guard has become a steady member of the rotation, but hadn’t scored in double figures since tallying 11 at Rutgers on Jan. 5. He scored eight in the first half Saturday, including the Terps’ last six of the period to help them turn a two-point lead to five at halftime. Smith Jr. finished with a career-high 14, and with Ayala’s illness, the outburst couldn’t come at a better time.
3. It was a tale of two halves for Bruno Fernando once again. It’s no secret that slowing the sophomore center down is a high priority for every Maryland opponent, and in the last three games, he’s been stifled in the first half, scoring a combined total of two points. But all three times, he’s turned it around after halftime. Fernando tossed up 14 points and six rebounds in the second half alone, adding another double-double to his counter.