The good news is that this matchup with Maryland looked nothing like the blowout from two weeks ago. In fact, the Buckeyes came out tremendously, looking crisp, energetic, and like they had a plan for victory. Jae'Sean Tate in particular played great out of the gate, hitting jump shots and driving the lane with enthusiasm. The Buckeyes put Maryland on their heels for the first 10 minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, Maryland found its footing and absolutely smothered Ohio State late in the first half. The Buckeyes went ice cold from the field and couldn't seem to get a decent open shot. The Terrapins shut Tate down, and none of the rest of the Buckeyes were ready to step up - neither JaQuan Lyle nor Marc Loving could hit any shot. Daniel Giddens got into foul trouble with several minutes to go in the second half, and Mickey Mitchell, Marc Loving and Jaquan Lyle couldn't score a point to save their lives. Oh, and not surprisingly, the Buckeyes couldn't hit their foul shots either.
The second half was generally more of the same - the Buckeyes struggled from the floor, although they did manage to keep the same deficit to only 5 points for most of the half. All in all this wasn't a horrible defensive outing for the Buckeyes -- they kept most of the Maryland scoring threats in check, only giving up the occasional boneheaded play. Shots were contested and the paint was generally controlled.
Ultimately, Maryland was just better. Every time Ohio State found a new shooting threat, Maryland rotated its attention toward that player and simply shut them down. Jake Layman was a force from close range for Maryland, scoring well into double digits. Things got very close in the middle of the second half when Ohio State pulled within 2 and even took the lead a couple times. Energetic play from Jae'Sean Tate and Daniel Giddens, as well as some key buckets from Kam Williams and several turnovers from Maryland helped the Buckeyes stay in the mix, but they fell just short.
3 things to know
1) Tate needs to adjust
He worked that baby hook, and his jump-cutting drives to the basket were an energetic (it not always effective) change of pace for the Buckeyes high screen game. Until he was utterly shut down at the 13 minute mark of the first half, Tate was single-handedly controlling the pace of this matchup.
When the driving lane was removed, however, Tate was less effective. Whether its on Thad Matta's seeming inability to make in-game adjustments or Tate's inability to put those adjustments into practice, Tate seems to be a one-trick pony per game, and if team's are able to shut down his initial onslaught, Tate hasn't shown the ability to come back.
What Tate is able to do is keep doggedly attacking. Even if what he's doing isn't the most effective way to win, Tate will simply keep running into whatever wall an opponent puts up until the wall breaks down. Tate never gave up on his perceived ability to get half-a-step on his opponents, and kept pushing the ball through the lane, using his broad body to position a shot.
Side note - maybe it's just the multi-part names, but I'd like to suggest Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate for #TrueDetectiveSeason3. It seems like these two are the #reesecup perfect combination - when one is up, the other steps back, but it always ready to tip in an errant shot, pick up the defensive switch, and generally lead the team. This duo is becoming the reliable soul of this team.
2) Consistency is hard for this young team
The Buckeye offense was crisp and thoughtful during much of the first half. Ohio State ran sharp screens and patiently found the open shooter or moved the ball into the paint. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to make adjustments as the Maryland defense morphed around them, and their offensive flow evaporated into off-balance shots and double-teamed basket drives.
Maryland is a very good team, and it was not surprising that this was going to be a difficult game. Many will blame the fizzling offense on the inexperience of this team, but where experience on the court lacks, the experience on the bench from Matta, Boals, etc. is supposed to pick up the slack. So far, it doesn't look like the coaching staff is able to instill the kind of composure necessary to give these Buckeyes a consistent offensive presence.
3) Marc Loving is still getting buried by his own lack of consistency
We've waited for almost three years now for Marc Loving to live up to his potential. Loving has occasional strong offensive nights, and is a reliable defender, but he has never transcended to the star some thought he was capable of becoming. He plays the most minutes of all the Buckeyes, on average, yet struggles to maintain offensive consistency. When the team has needed someone to heat up and knock down jump shots (or foul shots, even), Marc Loving is usually not that player.
That didn't change today against Maryland. Loving was mostly a non-factor. By the mid-point of the second half, Loving had only 2 points. He turned it on for a few foul shots and a heavily contested long-range 2 late, but didn't do as much as was needed. That's not the kind of performance you expect from the most experienced, arguably most game-ready player on your bench. Loving's consistency is disappointing, but this game was particularly frustrating.