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No. 24 Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Maryland: Game preview and prediction

The Buckeyes and Terps are both looking to bounce back from Big Ten losses last week.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The grind of conference play has officially begun and the No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team (10-4, 2-1) is looking to bounce back from a loss to the top-ranked team in the nation when they face the Maryland Terrapins (10-5, 1-3) this afternoon in College Park.

The Buckeyes fell to 2-1 in Big Ten play after their heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Purdue in Columbus Thursday night. The Boilermakers emerged with a 71-69 victory while Ohio State had to stomach its second home loss of the season.

Ohio State led 36-33 at the break, but the two teams kept things at a razor-thin margin throughout the second half. And unfortunately for the Buckeyes, their elite, clean performance against possibly their toughest opponent of the season came up short after a costly Justice Sueing turnover late in the game that gave Purdue the ball, a shot and a three-point play to stay ahead for good.

Freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh continued his phenomenal run with a team-high 21 points and five rebounds on the evening. The only other player in double-figures was the senior forward Sueing, who had 15 points on the night. It didn’t help that junior forward Zed Key left the game with zero points in four minutes after suffering a shoulder sprain. In a two-point game, his scoring volume was definitely missed.

Freshman center Felix Okpara filled in effectively from a defensive perspective (guarding Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center and the conference’s best scorer Zach Edey, no less). It was an impressive performance in 31 minutes from a player who’d been averaging under 14 this season. In all, Ohio State had eight steals and four blocks against Purdue.

Ohio State shot 50% from the field, including 43% from three-point range. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers dominated the Buckeyes on the glass, out-rebounding Ohio State 37-27. Purdue also won the offensive rebounding battle, 16-9.

That last turnover was a painful way to end play, especially since the Buckeyes — who had been struggling with turnovers at various points this season — had just seven against Purdue compared to 14 for the Boilermakers.

It was an early look at two of the favorites for the Big Ten crown and, while Purdue came out on top in round one, the Buckeyes surely have February 19 circled on their calendars for their re-match in West Lafayette.

However, the Buckeyes can’t be looking for revenge too soon, because they have to take care of business this afternoon against a Maryland squad that’s struggled to gain traction with the start of conference play.


NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Terps can be a dangerous team, but the squad which started off 8-0 with wins over Miami (FL) and Illinois has now lost five of its last seven games. And Maryland is still seeking its first win of 2023, having lost to Michigan (81-46) and Rutgers (64-50) on the road. Overall, Maryland is 10-5, including 1-3 in conference play.

Maryland fits the vein of the defense-minded teams Ohio State has faced in Big Ten play so far this season. The Terps are particularly adept at defending the long ball, allowing just 29% of opponent three-point attempts. Offensively, Ohio State is making 38% of its attempts.

Maryland is fifth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 63.3 points per game. Ohio State’s other conference opponents so far this season, Rutgers, Northwestern and Purdue, are first, second and fourth, respectively, in the category, so the Buckeyes at least have experience having faced similar defensive squads.

On the flip side, offensively, Maryland is averaging just over 71 points per game. In a troubling turn for the team, the Terps have scored just 96 points in their last two outings. And the Terps are 13th in the conference in three-point offense, connecting on just 31% of their shots from range.

Senior guard Jahmir Young, who came to Maryland after three seasons with Charlotte, leads the Terps in scoring with 13.9 points per game. Seniors Donta Scott and Hakim Hart are also averaging in double-figures for Maryland so far this season. Scott was particularly hot in the early season stretch but has cooled with the start of Big Ten play.

In Maryland’s most recent outing against Rutgers, the Terps shot just 41% from the field as Young led the team with 13 points. Senior guard Don Carey, a transfer from Georgetown, was the only other Maryland player in double figures with a dozen points on the night. While Maryland and Rutgers were neck-and-neck on rebounds and steals, the Terps had 20 turnovers to Rutgers’ 13.

The second-straight double-digit loss was a blow for the squad which has a tough stretch ahead (after Ohio State, the Terps go on the road at Iowa, return home to face Michigan again, then have to head to Purdue).

Leading Maryland from the bench is Kevin Willard, who is in his first season in College Park after spending 12 seasons at Seton Hall. Willard, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky and Pitt, has experience with turnarounds, having previously righted the ship during his time at both Iona and Seton Hall and winning conference coach of the year honors at both.


NCAA Basketball: St. Peter’s at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Yet again this season, the Buckeyes find themselves facing a solid defensive opponent in the conference. On two occasions already, Ohio State has emerged on top in two very different game flows (a narrow buzzer-beater versus Rutgers and a totally dominant win against Northwestern).

Maryland owns the overall series against the Buckeyes 10-9. Last year, Ohio State split its two games with Maryland with each team taking its home matchup. Donta Scott led the Terps in the first matchup, a loss in Columbus, with 25 points and six rebounds.

Despite coming off a loss against Purdue, Ohio State seems to be playing better and better basketball as a team. Leading the way is Sensabaugh, who has won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for three-straight weeks and is establishing himself as one of the top players in the conference. The newcomer is seventh in the conference in scoring, averaging more than 16 points per game, and has led Ohio State in scoring in six of the last seven games.

The Buckeyes have risen all the way to No. 11 nationally and No. 2 in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom. Importantly, the Buckeyes finally seemed to be back to full strength heading into 2023 with the return of Gene Brown and Isaac Likekele to the lineup, but it didn’t help to be without one of their leading scorers for most of the game Thursday. It was announced Saturday afternoon during the Michigan vs. Michigan State game on FOX that Key, who averages 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, will not play today against the Terrapins.

Maryland, meanwhile, is sitting at a still-respectable No. 41 per Kenpom. However, Maryland’s recent slump might be a right-sizing of sorts. With a first-year head coach and without its top scorer from last season, the Terps were picked to finish 10th in the conference in the preseason. They rose as high as No. 13 in the nation after their impressive early season run, but offensive struggles that have emerged in recent weeks have exposed some of the gaps that will only become more salient as conference play continues.

Recent trajectories would seem to favor Ohio State (yes, even with the loss to the Boilermakers) but, as we’ve seen, road games in the Big Ten are no joke. We also can’t ignore the fact that both of Maryland’s recent double-digit losses came in tough road environments.

And Ohio State cannot underestimate facing a reeling squad that’s desperate to get back to winning ways before things spiral out of control.

ESPN BPI: Ohio State 55.4%

Time: 1 p.m. ET


LGHL score prediction: Ohio State 74, Maryland 67