When Kaleb Wesson hit his brother Andre for a slam dunk early in the second half, No. 12 Maryland’s eight point lead over No. 11 Ohio State was cut to just two. But the Terps would not fold. Rather, they used their best defensive run of the season to regain momentum.
Maryland locked in on defense and forced 12 consecutive missed shots. When the Buckeyes finally saw the ball go through the hoop on a Duane Washgton Jr. tip-in, the lead was back up to seven and the Terps would not look back, finishing off a 67-55 victory.
“Their length provides obviously a lot of problems and it’s not just their length. It’s obviously Jalen Smith too. Mark (Turgeon) does a really good job. They’re disciplined,” said Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann. “I always feel like they don’t foul teams, are really smart in how they defend you…their young guys make a lot of smart plays.”
Ohio State’s top two scorers were held in check all night. Kaleb Wesson, one of the best forwards in the conference, finished with 15 points but shot only 5-13 and turned the ball over four times while being harassed by Jalen Smith.
Washington Jr., had his worst outing of the season while being guarded by Smith’s fellow Baltimore native and high school teammate, Darryl Morsell.
“Think we just guys who accept challenges. Coach Turgeon challenged me to guard Washington, make it difficult for him,” Morsell said of the way he and Smith defended.
“It’s just a Baltimore thing you know. We always come out and play defense and we always emphasize not letting our opponents beat us,” said Smith.
Offensively, it was not the prettiest performance to date for the Terps. In the first half, they turned the ball over ten times and converted only one two-pointer. But the Terps finally found their stroke from deep, hitting seven of their 11 attempts in the first.
After Wesson picked up his second foul on a charge drawn by Smith, Maryland went on a three-point barrage. Smith got it started with a three pointer of his own from the top of the key. The ensuing Terps possession, it was Anthony Cowan hitting one from an identical spot. Ohio State’s D.J. Carton countered with his own three pointer, but Maryland was not done firing away. Freshman Donta Scott drained one from the wing and the lead was eight.
Despite trailing 8-0, Maryland used their consecutive bombs from long range to take a 28-22 lead into the half. Albeit some recent shooting struggles, Turgeon was not astonished by his team’s first half.
“I wasn’t surprised because we have been shooting the ball really well in practice and scrimmages …as a coach you always know it starts in practice and eventually gets to the game,” said Turgeon. “We got a couple guys right now that are much better shooters than they are shooting.”
The Terps regressed to the norm in the second half, but Cowan would not let them fail. He got to the free throw line 10 times en route to 15 second half points. Both Wesson brothers were better in the second half, combining for 19 themselves but it would not matter. After the 12 consecutive missed shots, the Buckeyes never got closer than seven.
Now the next challenge for Turgeon’s team will be proving they can win on the road. They will travel to two capable opponents in the next week: Iowa and Wisconsin.
“We haven’t been a good road team yet. We’ll see,” said Turgeon. “Friday night in Iowa, I’m sure it’s gonna be a great crowd. We just got to respond to it.”
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