The Ohio State Buckeyes jumped up to the No. 4 spot in the AP Poll on Monday afternoon, and they celebrated later that night by defeating the Maryland Terrapins 73-65 in College Park. Chris Holtmann’s team has now won eight of their last nine games, and have really been one of the biggest surprises of the 2020-21 college basketball season. With yet another victory in its pocket, Ohio State moves within a half-game of first place in the Big Ten at 10-4 in conference play (16-4 overall).
The Buckeyes were able to overcome an off night from leading scorer E.J. Liddell, who posted just seven points in the contest, thanks largely in part to a career-high 18 points from Kyle Young. The forward was big for Ohio State down the stretch in the second period, and was one of the only players in scarlet able to score consistently inside. Other than Young, the Buckeyes got a bunch of their points from beyond the arc, knocking down 10 triples in 26 attempts. Duane Washington Jr. and Justin Ahrens drilled a trio of threes each, as Washington finished with 18 points and Ahrens with 11.
After being outscored by Maryland 18-4 in the paint in the first period, Ohio State finished the night with only a 32-24 disadvantage from in close. Even though the shots weren’t always falling, the Buckeyes moved the ball well, racking up 15 assists as a team. The game was really won on the defensive end, where Holtmann’s guys finished the night with seven steals and five blocks while holding the Terps to 26% shooting from deep.
If its three its for me
Ohio State’s offense stumbled out of the gate against the Terrapins. Ironically, the Buckeyes have had a ton of success this season at attacking the paint, even when going up against much taller opposing big men as a smaller unit themselves. Maryland, like Ohio State, doesn’t really feature a true center, and while you’d think that would play into Chris Holtmann’s team’s hands, the Buckeyes had little success to start the game at scoring inside. In fact, of Ohio State’s first 17 points, zero of them came in the paint.
Luckily for the Bucks, the three-point shot was dropping early. As a team, Ohio State struggled to get anything to fall over the first several minutes, beginning the night 1-of-6 from the field with the lone make a deep-two from Justin Ahrens. From there, however, the Buckeyes began to get a little groove going, and after a three-ball from Ahrens, Duane Washington Jr. knocked down back-to-back triples to cut into what had become a quick seven-point deficit. Seth Towns knocked down a three of his own on the ensuing possession, and just like that Ohio State was back in front 14-13.
Despite their proficiency from beyond the arc, it was a largely sloppy start by the Buckeyes. Holtmann’s guys were having a tough time sticking with the plethora of guards Maryland had on the floor, and the offense was a bit out of whack with four early turnovers. The Terps were really making Ohio State work for every basket and moving the ball well at the opposite end. It also didn’t help that the home team was getting some friendly calls at both ends. As a result, Maryland began to open up another lead midway through the first period.
It was an odd opening period for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes took a 35-30 lead into halftime nonetheless. The hot three-point shooting was the only reason the away team was on top, as Holtmann’s guys hit 50% (8-of-16) from beyond the arc through the first 20 minutes. After trailing by as many as eight points, Ohio State began a 14-1 run with 6:08 on the clock to retake the lead as Maryland went cold at the other end. Despite being out-scored in the paint 18-4, the Buckeyes led by five at the break.
Almost as surprising as the scoring disparity inside was the fact that Ohio State’s leading scorer E.J. Liddell was held to zero points in the opening period as he began his night 0-of-3 from the field. Washington Jr. buoyed the Buckeyes on offense, leading all scorers with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting heading into the half, including a trio of makes from downtown. Ahrens and Towns each nailed a pair of triples in the first period as well. Ohio State was still having a really tough time scoring around the rim, but some nifty passing led to open looks from deep and led to nine first-half assists.
In addition to their futility in the paint, the Buckeyes were in some early foul trouble. Ahrens, Liddell, and Justice Sueing all picked up two fouls in the first period, with Ahrens’ second coming on a questionable technical foul as he said something towards the Maryland bench after a C.J. Walker made three. While Ohio State was not helping themselves at the other end with many attempts to drive to the rim, the refs weren’t doing them any favors as they shot just one free throw in the half. All things considered, leading at halftime with zero points from your leading scorer and almost no points in the paint is an impressive feat.
Wishing they were swishing
It wasn’t exactly a pretty start for either team to start the second period, as neither side could seem to get the lid off the basket. Ohio State began the half just 1-of-9 from the field, which was somehow even better than Maryland’s 0-of-8 performance over the first six minutes of play out of the break. The Terrapins were trying to get back into the game by chucking up threes, but none of them were falling. The Buckeyes were beginning to attack the paint with more regularity, but Maryland remained strong inside.
However, the change in mentality for Ohio State was paying off, as Kyle Young starting cooking inside to grow the lead to 11 points at the second media timeout. It was clearly a point of emphasis to get the ball underneath the rim, as a few really nice set plays for Young created easy looks for the Bucks. Liddell continued to struggle, but he picked up his first two points of the night at the line as Ohio State began drawing more fouls, increasing their intensity at the offensive end.
It was an ugly shooting performance to begin the period on both sides, but Ohio State was outscoring Maryland 13-4 nearing the midway point of the second half. Liddell couldn’t buy a basket, but he was strong on the defensive end with a trio of blocks. The Buckeyes were playing really well as a unit at that end of the floor, with five total blocks and five steals with still over 11 minutes remaining in the game.
The Young and the restless
Kyle Young has been such an integral part of this Ohio State basketball team for years now. The definition of a glue guy, Young has done a phenomenal job of bringing a tremendous amount of energy to the floor and keeping his teammates involved. He does all the gritty things you need on the basketball court, like play tough defense and fight for rebounds and loose balls, and he is the exact type of player every coach loves to have on their team. Young isn’t usually a guy you expect to give you big performances at the offensive end, but he was a huge factor in the Buckeyes’ win on Monday night.
With Liddell having an off game and not much size on the roster elsewhere, Young really stepped up in the paint — especially in the second half. The forward scored 13 of his 18 points in the latter 20 minutes of play as he almost single-handedly kept Ohio State’s offense afloat during some cold shooting stretches. He was really strong inside, helping clean up the glass in addition to using his size to create leverage under the rim and pick up some easy buckets. It’s not often Young gets the full recognition for all that he does for the team in the stat sheet, but he shined against the Terps.
"You see, Kyle Young is the most important glue guy in the country. Last year, he had his appendix removed a few hours after a game where he grabbed 11 rebounds. This other time, he --" pic.twitter.com/j48LCI7XWI— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) February 9, 2021
Ohio State will look to make it six wins in a row when they host the Indiana Hoosiers (10-8, 5-6) on Saturday. Indiana is coming off a huge win over Iowa their last time out, and will play Northwestern on Wednesday before traveling to Columbus this weekend. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, with tipoff set for noon ET.