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

The Buckeyes will try and bounce back from Tuesday’s second half collapse against Indiana.

Rutgers v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Ohio State’s season reached a new low on Tuesday night when the Buckeyes (13-10, 3-9) blew an 18-point lead at home to Indiana in the second half, falling to the Hoosiers 76-73. With the loss, Ohio State has now lost five-straight games, and eight of their last nine games.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes sit at the bottom of the Big Ten conference, in a two-way tie with Michigan for last place. However, since the Wolverines already beat the Buckeyes, Michigan would technically claim the 13-spot in the standings, with Ohio State bringing up the rear. Tuesday night’s loss to Indiana only added fuel to the notion that this will be head coach Chris Holtmann’s last season in charge in Columbus.

Although the Buckeyes took a 42-29 lead over the Hoosiers into halftime, it was difficult to have faith in Ohio State holding onto the lead because of the second half struggles they have had in numerous games over the last month. Roddy Gayle Jr. pushed the lead to 49-31 with a layup just a couple minutes into the second half.

Trailing by 12 points with just under eight minutes to go in the game, Indiana started to make their big move. The comeback was capped off by an Anthony Leal game-winning three-pointer with 22 seconds left that gave the Hoosiers a regular season sweep of the Buckeyes.

Ohio State had no answer for Malik Reneau and Trey Galloway of Indiana, who combined to score 51 points. No other Hoosier reached double figures in scoring in the game. Leading the Buckeyes in scoring in the loss were Gayle Jr. and Jamison Battle, with each scoring 19 points. Bruce Thornton added 11 points, and continues to lead the team with a 15.4 points per game.


Preview

The Buckeyes will close out their two-game homestand later today by hosting the Maryland Terrapins. Much like Ohio State, Maryland (13-10, 5-7) has struggled recently, losing four of their last six games. The most recent of those setbacks came on Tuesday night when the Terrapins fell 56-53 in College Park to Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights hit a three-pointer to take a 40-37 lead with 9:48 left in the game and wouldn’t trail again. Maryland was able to pull within a point after a couple Jahmir Young free throws with just over a minute to go, but the Terps ran out of steam and weren’t able to complete the comeback.

Had Julian Reese and Young been able to get some help from their teammates, Maryland might have had enough to beat Rutgers earlier this week. Reese scored a team-high 19 points in the loss, while Young netted 16 points. The duo were the only two Terrapins to reach double figures in scoring in the game. Both Maryland players also were strong on the glass, with each pulling down 12 rebounds.

With his scoring output on Tuesday, Young now has 2,428 career points, ranking second nationally amongst active players. Young will now try and continue his scintillating play on the road of late. Over his last six road games, Young is averaging 29.0 points per game.

Already this season, Young has scored 30 points in three road contests, tying him with Len Bias and Greivis Vazquez for second-most in a season in Maryland history, which only trails Walt Williams’ school single-season record of five road games in a season with at least 30 points. The Charlotte transfer is leading the Terrapins with 20.6 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten behind Purdue big man Zach Edey.

Rutgers v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Along with Young, Ohio State will have to keep close tabs on Julian Reese. The junior forward recorded a double-double in Tuesday night’s game, pushing his season double-double total to 11. Felix Okpara and Zed Key are going to have their hands full with Reese, as the Baltimore product has three games of at least 15 rebounds this season.

Reese also isn’t too far behind Okpara when it comes to blocks this season. Okpara has 54 blocks heading into today’s contest, five more swats than Reese has recorded. If Okpara is able to block a shot today it’ll be the 30th straight game the sophomore has blocked at least one shot.

This afternoon’s contest is going to be the only regular season matchup between the Buckeyes and Terrapins this season. Last year the teams met twice, with both teams winning on their home court. Maryland defeated Ohio State 80-73 in College Park in early January, while the Buckeyes were able to return the favor 73-62 in Columbus on the first day of March. Ohio State set a program record by hitting all 20 of the free throws they attempted in the victory. Overall, Maryland holds a slight edge in the series, posting a 11-10 record against the Buckeyes.

The Terrapins are going to need to do a lot of work if they have any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season. In head coach Kevin Willard’s first season at Maryland, the Terrapins made the tournament, beating West Virginia 67-65 in the first round before falling to Alabama 73-51 in the second round. Willard is still searching for his first Sweet Sixteen appearance as a head coach. All six of his previous NCAA Tournament appearances as head coach have ended in either the first or second round.


Prediction

Right now it’s impossible to have any confidence in Ohio State. On Tuesday it looked like the Buckeyes had a firm grasp on the game against Indiana before blowing an 18-point lead in the game. At this point Ohio State could be up 30 points with a minute to go in a game and fans still wouldn’t feel comfortable until time in the game completely expired.

For as little confidence as fans have in the team right now, it’s hard to imagine how damaged the men’s basketball team is. Also, the rumors this will likely be head coach Chris Holtmann’s last season at Ohio State can’t help morale around the program.

The struggles of the Buckeyes this year have to really be weighing on Bruce Thornton, who entered the season as one of the leaders of the team. You have to feel for the sophomore guard, who is giving his all every time he takes the court. If Ohio State wants to snap their five-game losing streak, they’d be wise to keep the basketball in Thornton’s hands since he is leading the country with a 4.22 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Expect Thornton to have a bounce-back game today after the contest against Indiana was the first time this year where he failed to record at least one assist.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The good news for Ohio State is they are hosting a team that is dealing with confidence issues of their own of late. If the Buckeyes are able to slow down Reese and Young, they’ll have a great shot at winning since Maryland doesn’t see a ton of production outside of the duo and forward Donta Scott. Reese, Young, and Scott are all averaging at least 11 points per game this year. The scoring falls off considerably after Scott, as the fourth-highest scoring Terrapin this year is DeShawn Harris-Smith, who is averaging 6.6 points per game.

Even though the Maryland defense has been solid throughout the year, this feels a bit like a “get right” game for Ohio State. While a victory over Maryland isn’t going to turn the season around, it will at least allow the Buckeyes to feel good for a few days. It also will help that a couple Buckeyes have been really good from the foul line lately.

Jamison Battle has made his last 34 free throw attempts, and Gayle is just behind Battle with 30 straight makes at the free throw line. Ohio State is physical and smarter with the basketball today, not repeating the second half collapse that was seen from them on Tuesday night.


ESPN BPI: Ohio State 63.9%
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1

LGHL score prediction: Ohio State 71, Maryland 67