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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Maryland: Game preview, prediction

The Buckeyes take on the Terrapins in this Friday night Big Ten matchup.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping three in a row in conference play, the now unranked Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball (12-4, 2-3) team will return home Friday night to take on No. 19 Maryland (15-3, 6-1) as they look to stop the skid. The game is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.


Preview

In their last time out, the Buckeyes fell on the road 72-62 to Iowa as the team continued to struggle against Big Ten opponents. In what has been the new norm of late for OSU, Kaleb Wesson found himself in early foul trouble and the team was unable to find scoring from other sources. Ohio State continued to get poor production from their guards, as Luther Muhammad, C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods went a combined 6-of-21 from the floor.

Wesson finished with a season-low two points on just 1-of-5 shooting. Teams have started to target the sophomore forward early on with the intention of getting him in foul trouble in order to neutralize his offensive output, as he leads the team with 16.2 points per game. Without Wesson on the floor, the Buckeyes have looked lost on the offensive end, especially when teams have moved into a zone defense.

If Ohio State wishes to turn things around and get back in the win column, they must get more production from their upperclassmen, including Jackson and Woods. During this three-game skid, Jackson has hit just 11-of-30 from the field and a paltry 7-of-18 from three-point land to go along with 11 turnovers. After a hot stretch earlier in the season, Woods has really fallen off. Over the last three games, he has hit only three shots in 15 attempts and has scored a total of only nine points.

On the defensive end, the Buckeyes have taken a step back as well. After allowing more than 70 points just twice over their first 13 games (a 72-62 loss to Syracuse and a 73-71 win over Bucknell), they have allowed over 70 twice in their last three games, including a big 86-point performance by Michigan State. Part of the slip up on this end of the floor can also be attributed to foul trouble on Wesson, who serves as the team’s primary rim defender. It has also been a result of increased fouls and free throw attempts from opponents, as their opposition in each of the three losses shot 20 or more free throws.

Maryland is a team trending very much in the opposite direction. After a tough loss to Seton Hall at the end of December, the Terrapins have rattled off six straight wins to work their way into the Top-25. Two of those wins over their current streak came against ranked conference opponents, including a 74-72 win over No. 24 Nebraska and a 78-75 victory over No. 22 Indiana.

In their last time out, Maryland got off to an incredibly hot start against Wisconsin before nearly blowing the lead in the second half, ultimately coming away with a 64-60 win over the Badgers. After leading 33-15 at halftime, the Terrapins were up by as many as 21 before Wisconsin came roaring back. With two minutes remaining, the Badgers actually took a 60-59 lead before Anthony Cowan Jr. nailed a 3-pointer with 44 seconds to go to give Maryland the lead once and for all.

Cowan Jr. is having a phenomenal season as the Terps’ leading scorer, averaging close to 18 points per game. He is incredibly hot as of late, averaging 24 points to go along with five assists and over five rebounds per game over the last three contests. Cowan Jr. has done a ton of damage especially in the second halves of those games, knocking down 7-of-11 attempts from behind the arc and scoring 58 of his 72 points in the closing period.

Cowan Jr. is not alone, as sophomore Bruno Fernando is heating up as well. Fernando was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday after a pair of double-doubles averaging 17.5 points and 12 rebounds in Maryland’s two victories last week. Fernando was also named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Tuesday, becoming the first Maryland player to earn the honor since it first began being awarded on a weekly basis in the 2009-10 season.


Prediction

ESPN BPI: OSU 66.8%

Vegas Line: OSU -2

Ohio State is 6-6 all-time against Maryland, although the Terrapins own a 4-2 advantage since joining the Big Ten. In the last meeting between the two schools, the Terps came away with a 77-71 victory at Value City Arena on Jan. 31, 2017. A then-freshman Cowan Jr. scored 11 points with five assists in the contest.

Maryland is off to their third 6-1 start to Big Ten in their last four seasons, beginning 8-1 and 6-1 in conference those other two seasons all coming under head coach Mark Turgeon. After starting 9-0 in conference a season ago in Chris Holtmann’s first season as head coach, the Buckeyes have started this season just 2-3. Ohio State lost only three Big Ten games all of last year, already having lost three this season in just five games.

The Buckeyes are in desperate need of a win. On paper this matchup comes at a very inopportune time for Ohio State, as Maryland is very hot and OSU is very not. However, returning back to their home floor with the students now back from break should provide a great atmosphere in Value City Arena that could breathe some life into the team.

Having six days off since their last contest, Holtmann hopefully has had enough time to figure out the problems that have plagued the team over this losing streak and will put forward a game plan to correct it. The Buckeyes will look to do everything in their power to keep Kaleb Wesson out of foul trouble while also trying to take some of the pressure to score all the team’s points off his shoulders as they try to get back to the team-oriented basketball that won them games earlier in the year. Somehow, someway Ohio State gets back in the win column in a gritty, grind it out victory against a tough opponent.

LGHL Final Score Prediction: 72-69 Ohio State