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No. 12 Maryland men’s basketball vs No. 11 Ohio State preview

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The Terps’ first ranked matchup of the season comes against the sinking Buckeyes.

Maryland basketball Darryl Morsell vs. Ohio State Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

After a resounding win over Indiana on Saturday in what was a 30-point lead before the bench was emptied, Maryland men’s basketball — now ranked No. 12 in the nation — is back at Xfinity Center Tuesday night.

The Terps will host No. 11 Ohio State, their first ranked opponent of the season to this point. A few weeks ago, both teams were in the top-five, but a couple surprising losses for both teams dropped them down in the polls.

“You gotta show other teams you’re ranked too, you’re here for a reason,” freshman forward Donta Scott said. “Don’t give them [anything] to underestimate you. You gotta go win the game, play hard, play our game and have fun.”

Maryland enters on a two-game winning streak — with wins over Bryant and Indiana — while the Buckeyes have dropped two in a row to West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the game can be watched on ESPN.

Ohio State Buckeyes (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

2018-19 record: 20-15 (8-12 Big Ten)

Head coach Chris Holtmann is in his third season with the Buckeyes, and he’s already made two NCAA Tournaments after taking over for Thad Matta for the 2017-18 season. In his first year with the team, Holtmann was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Before coming to Columbus, he served as the head coach at Butler and Gardner-Webb.

Players to know

Kaleb Wesson, junior center, 6’9, 270 lbs, No. 34. If there’s anybody to know on the Buckeyes, it’s Wesson. Now in his third year with the program — and third as a full-time starter — he’s playing his best basketball yet. On the year, Wesson is averaging 14.7 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 43.5 percent from deep. He’s also getting it done in the paint, as he’s averaging 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest.

“I remember him being a dominant post player. And we know he still is one, so we just gotta play around that,” Jalen Smith said. “Last year, I was very thin. I was around 215 [pounds], but now I’m around 225, 227. That’s giving me a lot more pounds to withstand hits against other bigs.”

Duane Washington Jr., sophomore guard, 6’3, 190 lbs, No. 4. After coming off the bench as a sixth man during his freshman campaign, Washington has graduated to full-time starter in his second season with the program. And so far, he’s making the most of his opportunities. Washington is currently averaging 11.8 points per game on a robust 45.7 field goal percentage, and his 47.5 percent clip from beyond the arc ranks second-best in the conference.

D.J. Carton, freshman guard, 6’2, 190 lbs, No. 3. While Carton hasn’t earned a start yet this year, he’s been arguably the Buckeyes’ third-best player in the early goings of his freshman season. He’s currently averaging 9.7 points per outing while hitting 51.1 percent of his field goals, and his 38.9 three-point percentage is solid as well. Carton is also the team’s second-leading facilitator, as he is averaging 2.7 assists per game.

Strength

Three-point shooting. As mentioned above, Ohio State’s three leading scorers all shoot the three at above average — and borderline elite — rates. But the Buckeyes’ efficiency from beyond the arc is an all-around affair. The three remaining players with at least 30 attempts — Andre Wesson, CJ Walker and Luther Muhammad — are all shooting above 40 percent, and the team as a whole is at 39.6 percent. That figure ranks best in the Big Ten and ninth in the entire nation.

Weakness

Ball control. Despite a well below average tempo — Ohio State ranks 266th in the country in that regard, per KenPom — the Buckeyes have been careless with the basketball this season. They currently average 13.8 turnovers per game — which ranks 184th in the nation — and their 20.3 turnover percentage ranks 226th. Fortunately for Ohio State, an incredibly stout defense leaves it positive in the turnover margin on the season.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland make it three in a row? Outside of a few slow starts, all was going right for the Terps before they dropped back-to-back games on the road to Penn State and Seton Hall. The team has since rebounded, though it was against a lower level of competition in low-major Bryant and a middling Indiana team. And even then, Maryland struggled to get going early on.

Against a team as talented as Ohio State, a weak beginning of the game could be fatal, and the Terps will have to figure out how to attack the Buckeyes defense right from tipoff.

2. Who is Ohio State? Like the Terps, the Buckeyes bullied the competition en route to an undefeated record and a top-5 ranking. Since, they’ve been in relative free fall, dropping three of five games — and their last two to West Virginia and Wisconsin — though they were able to knock off a very good Kentucky team in between the losses.

Ohio State still ranks favorably in every metric — including a No. 4 spot on KenPom — but there’s no denying the team has looked drastically different as of late. The outcome of Tuesday’s game may be dependent on whether the Buckeyes can find their identity in College Park.

“They’re well-coached, they run good stuff and I think they’re a little bit older,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think their bill, if things go well in March, they can win it all. They’re that good of a team.”

3. Who wins the battle in the paint? While Jalen Smith and Wesson may be roughly the same height — the former is listed at 6’10, the latter is at 6’9 — there is no mistaking who has the edge in overall frame. Wesson has a 45-pound advantage, according to the teams’ official rosters, and while Smith has been a double-double machine so far this season, he hasn’t faced someone quite like Wesson.

Chol Marial is surrendering a similar margin in weight, but his 7’2 frame with a 7’8 wingspan could be an X-factor for the Terps on the interior if Smith can’t assert his presence.

“I don’t think [Jalen’s] been quite the rim protector that I was hoping he would be,” Turgeon said. “We want it to be a little more consistent and him to be more comfortable with being more aggressive and playing above the rim.

“Jalen’s got to play with his feet, play smart. Use his length the best he can, make him earn everything. ... He’s become a good post defender, but just the weight thing. It was hard for Bruno last year to guard [Wesson], so we’ll have multiple guys guard him throughout the game.”

Predictions

Vegas: Maryland -2.5, O/U 134.5 (as of Tuesday midday)

ESPN BPI: Maryland 59.8% chance to win

KenPom: Maryland 67, Ohio State 66 (Maryland 55% chance to win)

Me: Ohio State 69, Maryland 64