Ohio State will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak when they hit the road and travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. The Buckeyes will be looking to end some of their recent struggles against the Terrapins, who have beaten Ohio State in six of the last seven meetings between the schools.
The start to 2020 wasn’t what the Ohio State Buckeyes had in mind, as they lost their first game of the new year on Friday night to Wisconsin 61-57 in Columbus. The loss was Ohio State’s second straight loss and their third loss in the last five games. The Buckeyes held a 51-49 lead over the Badgers with less than four minutes to play, but Ohio State went cold at the wrong time, allowing Wisconsin to finish the game on a 12-6 run to secure the victory.
Kaleb Wesson did all he could to try and carry Ohio State to victory, but it wasn’t enough. Wesson recorded his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 22 points and tying a season-high with 13 rebounds. The junior came into Friday’s game with 990 career points, and he was able to become the 59th Buckeye to score 1,000 points in his career, reaching the mark with less than eight minutes to go in the first half. It was the latest milestone for Wesson, who reached 500 career rebounds in the loss to West Virginia, and is the 29th Buckeye to score 1,000 points and pull down 500 rebounds during their Ohio State career.
Ohio State’s only other real source of offense on Friday night came from Duane Washington Jr., who scored 18 points in the loss. It wasn’t the best shooting night for the sophomore though, as Washington made just six of the 19 shots he has attempted. Washington has struggled in the three games he has played since returning after missing the Minnesota and Southeast Missouri State games due to injury, as he has gone 11-34 from the field. Even with the struggles, Washington is still making nearly half of the three-pointers has has attempted this year.
It was undeniable that the loss of Kyle Young was the difference in the game for Ohio State. Even though Young doesn’t put a ton of points on the board, he does the little things for the Buckeyes. Without Young, Ohio State’s bench is shorter than normal, and in the loss to the Badgers, Wisconsin’s bench outscored Ohio State’s bench 20-2. Head coach Chris Holtmann hasn’t announced whether Young will be able to play against the Terrapins tonight, only saying Young is “day-to-day”.
Even though D.J. Carton played 21 minutes for Ohio State off the bench in the loss to the Badgers, the freshman made no impact for the Buckeyes. Carton missed the only shot he took in the game, and turned the basketball over four times. In losses to West Virginia and Wisconsin, Carton is 1-6 from the field with nine turnovers in 43 minutes on the floor. If the Buckeyes are going to contend for the national title, they’ll need a lot more out of their top freshman.
To snap their two-game losing streak, Ohio State is going to have to beat Maryland, which is something they haven’t done much of since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 6-8 against Maryland all-time, and 2-6 versus the Terrapins in Big Ten play. Maryland swept both meetings with Ohio State last season, with both wins coming by at least 10 points. The Terrapins have done a tremendous job of holding Kaleb Wesson in check, only allowing the big man to average 8.7 points per game in three meetings.
Head coach of the Terrapins is Mark Turgeon, who is in his ninth season with the school. After coming to College Park from Texas A&M, Turgeon has posted a 192-94 record while leading Maryland to four NCAA Tournament appearances, all coming in the last five years. Turgeon has posted a winning record in each of his eight seasons with the Terrapins so far, and it looks like he’ll be headed for a ninth straight season above .500 with the school.
Maryland started the season ranked in the top-10 and so far has lived up to the hype, putting together a 12-2 record heading into tonight’s game. After opening up the season by winning their first 10 games, the Terrapins dropped games at Penn State and Seton Hall, but have since rebounded by winning their last two games.
The latest of those wins came on Saturday, when the Terrapins defeated Indiana 75-59. Maryland took a 28-20 lead into halftime and weren’t really threatened in the second half, opening up a 30-point lead with less than four minutes to go before Indiana scored some late buckets to make the score look a little more respectable. The win allowed to Terrapins to stay in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten, a game and a half behind conference leader Michigan State.
Leading the way for the Terrapins in the win over the Hoosiers was Jalen Smith, who scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Smith has been a dominant force for Maryland this year, as the sophomore is nearly averaging a double-double, scoring 13.5 points per game and pulling down 9.9 rebounds per game. So far this season Smith has recorded eight double-doubles, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally. Ohio State will have to be aware of where Smith is if they take the basketball inside the paint, as the forward is averaging 2.3 blocks per game.
While Smith is an impact player for Maryland, the leader of the Terrapins is undoubtedly guard Anthony Cowan Jr. After last season Cowan explored the possibility of entering NBA Draft, but decided it was in his best interests to return to College Park for his senior season. This year Cowan is averaging a team-high 16.4 points per game, and just became the 15th player in school history to score at least 1,600 points in their career. With three more assists, Cowan will reach 500 helpers for his career, and currently he is just one of three Terrapins to record 1,600 points and 450 assists during their career.
Joining Cowan in the backcourt is Aaron Wiggins, who is the third Maryland player averaging double figures in scoring this year. The sophomore guard has been very consistent of late, scoring at least 11 points in seven of the last eight games. An underrated part of Wiggins’ game is his rebounding ability, as his 6.4 rebounds per game this year ranks second on Maryland.
Rounding out the starting lineup for the Terrapins are guard Darryl Morsell and forward Donta Scott. Morsell is in his third year with Maryland, and is averaging 8.6 points per game this season after averaging 8.7 points per game in his freshman year, followed by 8.5 points per game last year. Scott is in his first season in College Park and is starting to find his legs on the court, as he has tied a career-high with nine points in each of the last two games. The first Terrapin off the bench is likely to be guard Eric Ayala, who is averaging 9.9 points per game.
ESPN BPI: Maryland 59.8%
Not that Ohio State hasn’t gone into tougher environments and won this season, but the Buckeyes do have their work cut out for them if they want to snap their two-game losing streak. Beating the Terrapins will be even tougher if Kyle Young isn’t able to play for the Buckeyes tonight due to recovery from appendix surgery.
What has really hurt Ohio State lately has been their carelessness with the basketball. The Buckeyes have committed at least 14 turnovers in each of the last five games, and it’s no coincidence Ohio State has lost three of those five games. The Buckeyes can’t afford to commit that many turnovers against a team with an experienced guard like Anthony Cowan Jr., who will turn those giveaways into points and leave little doubt in the result early on.
The x-factor in tonight’s game is going to be Duane Washington Jr. If the sophomore finds his shot falling early on, the Buckeyes need to keep feeding the hot hand. With Jalen Smith on the inside to matchup up against Kaleb Wesson, it’s imperative Ohio State gets points consistently from outside the paint. If Washington is able to get hot shooting the basketball, it could rub off on some of the other Buckeyes who have been struggling.
If Ohio State is able to beat Maryland, it would be a huge win for the Buckeyes as the continue to try and bolster their resume ahead of the NCAA Tournament, but I think it might be asking a little too much for Ohio State to beat the Terrapins right now. The Buckeyes are working some issues right now, so it might not be the best time for them to be taking on such a tough right now. While it’s not smart to doubt a Chris Holtmann team with their backs against the wall, Ohio State falls just a little short of racking up another win against a ranked team this year.