Maryland men’s basketball struggled once again with consistency, falling to No. 4 Ohio State, 73-65, Monday.
The Terps did see some positives, but also similar issues such as turnovers and long lags on offense were on display as the team was unable to remain in striking distance against the Buckeyes.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the loss.
Maryland still needs more from its inside players
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon used a different lineup against Ohio State, starting Donta Scott, Jairus Hamilton and Galin Smith in what is considered a big lineup for the Terps.
While Maryland did technically win the battle inside by scoring 32 points in the paint and having a slight edge over Ohio State in rebounding, most of that effort came from other players getting to the paint.
With Scott mostly playing on the wing, Smith and Hamilton were the main pieces inside for Maryland, scoring seven and two points, respectively, and combining for six rebounds.
“Our conference is full of really good bigs,” Aaron Wiggins said. “And I mean, that’s our primary focus in terms of our defensive strategies and schemes going into a lot of our games.”
Ohio State, similar to Penn State, is one of the few teams that yield height in comparison to other Big Ten teams, as the conference is laden with strong post presences. The Buckeyes did however use strong guard play and a deep rotation of those smaller forwards to keep fresh when fighting inside.
“I wouldn’t say is the issue or anything, we just got to be a little bit better, making sure that we’re, you know, guarding the right way, the way that we practice and we’re talking on defense because, I mean, those guys fight every day,” Wiggins said. “...These guys, they’re fighting for us and they’re doing everything they can in the low post and we got to make sure that we’re all on the same page and we’re helping them out while they’re playing.”
In this back half of Big Ten play, the Terps will see less of the conference’s dominant bigs, but will still need better execution overall to improve.
The Terps struggled to close out on shooters from three and in transition
Another plague for Maryland basketball this season has been its ability to close out on shooters, and that was especially evident Monday night.
While Maryland started 2-of-2 from three and Ohio State started 0-of-2, the Buckeyes finished the first half 8-of-16 from deep, accounting for 24 of the Buckeyes’ 35 first half points.
The Buckeyes also doubled the Terps, 10-5, in fast break points, converting on more chances and pushing out in front with speed.
“Even in half court they shot, you know, a lot of shots early in the shot clock and stuff,” Eric Ayala said. “So, you know, just being more aware and alert on the defensive end [is key].”
The biggest struggles in Maryland’s loss to Ohio State was matching up on defense in transition. With the Buckeyes moving with purpose, the Terps often miscommunicated about man assignments for even split-seconds, resulting in open shots on the move.
Maryland ranks second to last in the Big Ten with opponents shooting 34.4 percent from three-point range.
“We played hard, but we didn’t play smart in the first half defensively,” Turgeon said. “...Those are frustrating times, just the inconsistency defensively for us, but just missed assignments. Just not being locked in on those two guys.”
On their own end, the Terps had their own struggles, per usual, from deep. The team made just five of their 19 three-pointers (26.3%), marking the fifth time it has shot under 30% beyond the arc in conference play.
Maryland finally showed up and converted from the free-throw line
The Terps have struggled mightily from the charity stripe this season, combining for a 69.1% as a team. The mark is even worse in conference play, where the team is 67.9% on free-throws, good for 11th in the Big Ten.
Big Ten play shined a bright light on Maryland’s struggles, as it either failed to convert on its chances or simply didn’t earn enough chances all together.
Maryland men’s basketball free throw shooting (Since Jan. 1, 2021)
|Penn State (2/05)||13-16|
|Ohio State (2/08)||16-18|
After the 8-of-9 effort against Wisconsin, the Terps have done well to earn more trips to the line while also converting on those chances.
“Just stepping up to the line and knocking free throws down... that’s pretty much it,” Ayala said. “A lot of guys are practicing free throws before and after practice, coach Turgeon has been on the guys about making free throws so it showed [Monday].”
Maryland was unable to keep Monday’s game against Ohio State close enough for free throw shooting to play a role, but down the stretch converting on chances at a high clip could be the difference between a win and a loss.