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Maryland women’s basketball showed its weaknesses in loss to Ohio State

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Not a lot of teams can beat the Terps, but the few that can found out how Monday night.

Sammi Silber / Testudo Times

Maryland women’s basketball’s 98-87 loss at No. 12 Ohio State was tough for many reasons. It gave the Buckeyes control of the Big Ten race, and was also the last chance the Terps had to make a statement win in the regular season.

What’s most concerning is that the loss clearly showed Maryland’s weaknesses, and possibly a blueprint to beat the Terps in the postseason.

Maryland’s defense looked adequate during nonconference play, but has turned into a liability at times. The Terps have allowed at least 70 points in nine of 15 conference games, but the defense slumped to a whole new level against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes shot 63.3 percent from the field, 12.6 percent higher than any other team has shot against Maryland this season. Not only did they become the only Terps opponent besides UConn to shoot over 50 percent from the field, they smashed right through the barrier.

Ohio State also made 15 shots in a row during the first and second quarter, which the ESPN broadcasters announced was a program record.

But the atrocious numbers don’t stop there. The Buckeyes scored 35 points in the first quarter, the most points the Terps have allowed in a single quarter in program history. Their 98 points were the most Maryland has allowed since 2008 in a 98-87 loss to Stanford in the Elite Eight.

Ohio State was able to do this by doing what lesser teams had done against the Terps, but more effectively. They were successful at attacking the basket and getting to the rim, which was has been a problem for Maryland at times this season. As a result, the Buckeyes had 42 points in the paint, just as many as the Terps had. Maryland usually dominates this statistical category due to Brionna Jones, but that wasn’t the case Monday.

Ohio State also took advantage of the cushion the Terps gave them on the perimeter, burying numerous midrange jumpers and three-pointers. Only Illinois hit more threes against Maryland than the 10 the Buckeyes hit Monday.

Whatever problems the Terps had were only exasperated by Kelsey Mitchell. The junior averaged 30.5 points in two wins over Maryland last season and had a similar performance in this one, scoring 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting.

Mitchell could do whatever she wanted, whether it was driving to the basket, burying deep threes or finding open teammates on the pick and roll. Brenda Frese originally stuck freshman Kaila Charles on the superstar guard, but that didn’t work out as planned.

Charles picked up her second foul with 5:45 to go in the first quarter. The Terps were up 14-10 at that point, but were outscored 25-8 to end the quarter. Mitchell scored 12 of her 15 first-quarter points with Charles on the bench, giving the Buckeyes the cushion they needed to keep Maryland at bay.

Charles didn’t pick up her third foul until 2:25 to go in the first half, but picked up her fourth just 56 seconds into the third quarter. Frese tried putting Destiny Slocum and Kristen Confroy on Mitchell, but that wasn’t effective.

It wasn’t until 4:15 remained in the third quarter that Blair Watson gave Frese a solution. Watson’s defense helped Maryland go on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to two in the third quarter. With Watson guarding her, Mitchell made just two field goals the rest of the game.

The Terps have struggled at times against dynamic guards, most notably Penn State’s Teniya Page and Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty, but Mitchell presents a different problem. Not only is she a one of the best players in the country, but she plays on a team that’s well-suited to beat Maryland.

Page and the Nittany Lions couldn’t contain Brionna Jones, and Flaherty and the Wolverines ran out of gas trying to play with the Terps’ breakneck tempo.

But Ohio State is used to playing at that tempo. The Buckeyes came into the game averaging 87.2 points, third in the nation behind Maryland and Baylor. This means that while teams like Penn State or Michigan will wear down late in the game, Mitchell and her teammates can push through the fatigue and keep playing at a high level.

Maryland usually relies on its up-tempo pace to wear teams out, but on Monday it got beat at its own game, which surely won’t sit well with Frese in the coming days.

Now, you can say UConn already set a blueprint on how to beat Maryland, but the Huskies present a different set of challenges. They require you to play a full 40 minutes and will make you pay for any lapse, making playing them physically and mentally exhausting.

For teams other than UConn, Ohio State gave potential tournament opponents a strategy on how to attack the Terps.

It requires making Maryland uncomfortable on defense, and having a guard who isn’t afraid to take it inside against Brionna Jones. Most teams don’t have guards as good as Mitchell (Washington’s Kelsey Plum is the only one that comes to mind), but they don’t have to be in order to be effective against the Terps defense.

Despite these flaws, Maryland still has the ingredients to make a deep tournament run. Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough are one of the best duos in the country, and Slocum makes everyone better around her when she’s on the floor.

But unlike Connecticut, who hasn’t lost since 2014, the Terps have flaws that good teams like Ohio State can exploit. When this happens, Maryland could be in trouble. Just look at what happened in College Park against Washington at the end of last season.