No. 12 Maryland men’s basketball picked up home win No. 10 Tuesday, beating No. 11 Ohio State 67-55.
Here are three takeaways from the Terps’ first win over a ranked opponent this season.
1. Kaleb Wesson was held in check
Looking at the final box score, Wesson’s 15-point, nine-rebound performance seems within his usual parameters — entering play, he was averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 boards.
But final stat lines can be misleading, and that was certainly the case on Tuesday. With Jalen Smith leading the charge and receiving some help from Donta Scott and Chol Marial, the Terps were able to throw Ohio State’s leading scorer off-balance and give him trouble all night.
In the first half, Wesson was contained to five points on 2-of-8 shooting with three turnovers and a pair of fouls, as Maryland overcame an early deficit to take a halftime lead. Smith was a huge part of that — the sophomore big had two blocks in the first 20 minutes, both coming on Wesson shots.
Jalen Smith picks up the big block, but the Terps cannot gain momentum off of it.— Cody Wilcox (@Cody_Wilcox15) January 8, 2020
Darryl Morsell is called for the charge -- which was Maryland's sixth possession without a bucket. pic.twitter.com/zoerTTUCNq
By game’s end, Wesson found more of a groove, but he finished an inefficient 5-of-13 from the field — including a 1-of-4 night from long range — with four personal fouls, four turnovers and three blocked shots against.
“We knew he would win some battles, but we just wanted to win the war,” Darryl Morsell said. “[Jalen] fought. He fell down and got back up. It just shows how much he’s growing.”
Head coach Mark Turgeon said before the game he wanted Smith to be more aggressive in the paint, especially against a center with a 45-pound weight advantage. And despite not planning on playing that position often before the season, Smith answered the bell.
“We thought Stix was going to be our four-man,” Turgeon said. “So all summer he’s guarding guards, and now he’s guarding maybe the best low-post player in the country tonight. And he just does it with a smile on his face. I’m really proud of him and what he’s given us.”
2. Donta Scott continued to impress
On Tuesday, Scott picked up his fourth straight and fifth total start of the season. And while he hasn’t yet cracked the lineup of the “five best players” on the team, he’s doing more and more to make a big difference for the Terps.
On the night, Scott played a season-high 33 minutes of action, and he did well in every facet of the game. He finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting — making his only three-point attempt — and five rebounds, while playing stellar defense on the interior. He also added two assists, showing off a bit of playmaking ability.
“Donta was very important. He helped us a lot. He played his defensive role perfectly, and he was battling every second,” Smith said. “You can see his maturity in stepping up when it’s his time and making sure he’s always knowing what he’s supposed to do.”
And as good as his performance was against the Buckeyes, it’s just more of the same from the freshman, who is just getting started, according to Turgeon.
“He made some big-time plays out there and some big-time passes. I thought his defense was terrific,” Turgeon said. “He made a tough shot against Wesson when Wesson tackled him and it wasn’t a foul call. ... He’s physically tough and mentally tougher.”
3. Maryland bounced back from beyond the arc
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Maryland had been struggling to shoot the three-point ball effectively. Granted, it’s been an issue all season long, but since returning from Orlando, the team was shooting 29.8 percent over its last six games.
And while it’s just one game — and they only took 18 attempts — the Terps got back on track from downtown against Ohio State. On the night, the team went 8-of-18 from long range, good for a 44.4 percentage on three-pointers.
Maryland was particularly deadly in the first half, going an uber-efficient 7-of-11 through 20 minutes of play. While the rest of the offense faltered, the Terps were knocking down triples left and right.
It may be snowing outside but its raining three-pointers inside.— Cody Wilcox (@Cody_Wilcox15) January 8, 2020
(I'm so sorry.) pic.twitter.com/4ebP3JyasG
“We started off slow from three at the beginning of the season, and I was never worried. I knew we were all going to hit shots,” Smith, who went 2-of-2, said. “But now that we’re knocking down shots, it opens up the lane even more.”
It’s a small sample size of just one game, but according to Turgeon, the team has been making strides in intrasquad scrimmages, shooting as high as “42 or 43 percent from three in practice.” But if they can find a way to bring this performance with them going forward, the Terps will be increasingly dangerous.
“We got a couple guys right now that are much better shooters than they’re shooting,” Turgeon said. “They’ll start making shots and that’s going to open it up for Anthony [Cowan Jr.] to get more looks. ... It’s coming. Hopefully they’ll start on the road.”