With just over a minute remaining in regulation, Maryland men’s basketball clung on to its hope for a potential home upset over No. 4 Ohio State.
After trailing by as much as 16 points, the Maryland men’s basketball had trimmed No. 4 Ohio State’s lead to nine points. And with around two minutes left, the team was in dire need of a stop to keep that momentum going.
But, as the Buckeyes’ guards had done all evening long, C.J. Walker broke free of the defense and scored two at the rim to reestablish his team’s double-digit lead.
Following a three-point miss from the Terps, Buckeye guard Duane Washington Jr. found himself isolated on the wing against freshman Aquan Smart. Working the pick-and-roll with his big man E.J. Liddell, he again got into the paint and lofted a high lob pass into the air. Liddell rose up to throw down a thunderous slam with just over a minute left to put the game out of reach.
Maryland was unable sustain runs throughout Monday night’s contest, overpowered by Ohio State every step of the way in the 73-65 loss.
“Every little mistake we made, they just took advantage of it,” junior guard Aaron Wiggins said. “...We gotta be better defensively guarding, and that’s what keeps us in games. And today our defense wasn’t at its best.”
The Terps struggled mightily to take care of the ball in their Friday night loss to Penn State, and they suffered from some of the same problems in the early going against the Buckeyes.
On the game’s second possession, Donta Scott was swarmed outside the three-point line by multiple Buckeye defenders, committing a live-ball turnover in a bad area. Ohio State quickly capitalized, finding Justin Ahrens for an open three-pointer. Scott’s turnover was one of three quick giveaways for the Terps, after committing 16 against the Nittany Lions four days prior.
But Maryland managed to overcome its early turnover trouble, finding considerable success attacking the Buckeyes at the rim. Ohio State fields one of the smallest teams in the conference this season, having just three players that at 6-foot-7 or taller and its tallest player being 6-foot-8.
The Terps quickly took advantage of their opponent’s lack of size, challenging the Buckeyes inside the paint on several possessions in row to rattle off a 7-0 run to give them an eight point lead at the 13:43 mark.
Ohio State’s high-powered offense responded in a hurry, though, putting together a 9-0 over the next 58 seconds to retake the lead, with three-pointers from Washington and Seth Towns, putting the Buckeyes back up 14-13.
Maryland continued to stay within its own offensive game plan, funneling all of its looks inside the arc, with only three of its first sixteen shot attempts coming from three-point range after going 3-for-17 from deep in its last game.
Sophomore guard Hakim Hart, one of the team’s leading three-point shooters, even began to take his game to the interior. Taking advantage of a mismatch on the low block, the 6-foot-6 guard backed down CJ Walker and finished off the glass with his right hand, putting the Terps up 19-17.
But for each burst the Terps had in them, Ohio State had an answer. The Buckeyes began to rain threes on the Maryland defense, taking advantage of slow rotations on the perimeter to exploit gaps in the Terps’ zone setup.
Three different Buckeyes buried three-straight three-pointers, with Walker finding himself with acres of space on the left wing to knock home his first triple of the night to give his team a 28-25 lead.
Ohio State went on to shoot lights out from deep in the first half, despite coming in ranked 7th in the Big Ten in three-point percentage with an average of 35.0%. Led by junior guard Duane Washington Jr., the Buckeyes shot 8-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, accounting for 60% of their first half scoring total.
“[We were] just missing guys, losing guys, losing shooters,” junior guard Eric Ayala said. “They kind of of got a couple of open ones early on in transition ... They shoot it quick, I didn’t know that they shot it that quick in transition.”
The Buckeyes continued to build on their hot-shooting spurt, finishing the half on a 18-7 run while Maryland shot just 2-of-9 down the stretch to take a 35-30 lead into the halftime break.
After allowing their opponent to close the first frame on an impressive run, the Terps came out flat offensively in their return to the floor. Maryland came up short on each of its first eight field goal attempts of the half, allowing the Buckeyes to build their largest lead of the game at 43-32 and forcing head coach Mark Turgeon to call a timeout.
“They did make an adjustment going into the second half and defending the drive a little bit more,” Wiggins said. “We got a lot of good looks in the second half from three. [Turgeon] always encourages us to stay confident and shoot when you’re open. Guys shot open shots.”
The Terps came out of the timeout still out of sync, giving up another Buckeye three-pointer to force Turgeon to call for time yet again, with just a minute and four second elapsing between each.
Forced to play from behind, the team turned to its senior leader in Darryl Morsell to keep them in the game. The guard scored tough buckets at the rim on consecutive possessions to trim his team’s deficit to 10 points with over 10 minutes remaining.
Though the Buckeyes pulled away again soon after that, the Terps continued to press toward a comeback attempt. After draining a step-back jumper, Eric Ayala joined Morsell to trap Washington as soon as he crossed half-court. After jarring the ball free, Morsell coasted to the other side and threw down a two-handed slam to trim the deficit back to single-digits.
Maryland failed to act on the gained momentum down the stretch though, as Ohio State scored a quick four points in 46 seconds to take a 13-point lead and seal the victory.
“Defensively at times [we weren’t] being as good as we need to be to beat a team like that,” Turgeon said. “They’re a great team. ... I mean they’re just really, really deep, really talented.”
Three Things to Know
1. Mark Turgeon experimented with different lineups. Maryland’s head coach threw several unique looks in the team’s first and only game against Ohio State this regular season, opting to go with a starting lineup of Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Donta Scott, Jairus Hamilton and Galin Smith. Turgeon continued to mix things up relative to his typical rotation tendencies, often keeping the team’s trio of big men in Smith, Hamilton and Scott on the floor at the same time.
Turgeon also gave several inexperienced players a chance to try to stem the tide, allowing Aquan Smart and James Graham III to see the floor for brief periods. However, Turgeon’s lineup changes weren’t enough to overcome the talent and experience of the Buckeyes.
2. The Buckeyes took advantage of the Terps’ turnovers. Dealing with turnover issues for its second straight game, Maryland’s giveaways were routinely taken advantage of by Ohio State. The Terps committed 12 total turnovers on Monday night, contributing to 21 points for Ohio State.
3. Maryland once again struggled from deep. The Terps’ first half offense was primarily focused inside the paint, where they held an 18-4 advantage at the break. But that quickly changed in the second half. Maryland attempted six three-pointers within the first five minutes of the second half, coming up empty on each to allow Ohio State to build its lead.
The Terps’ inconsistent three-point shooting has set them back time and time again this season, and again made a difference on Monday night.