Basketball Preview: Ohio State Goes Back on the Road Looking to Bounce Back from Purdue Loss Against Maryland

Ohio State was one shot away from knocking off the No. 1 team in the country.

WHO WHERE WHEN TV

Maryland (10-5, 1-3 B1G)

Xfinity Center

1 p.m

ESPN

Thursday’s two-point loss to Purdue was an emotional one for the Buckeyes, but they had to put it behind them in short order to refocus for another tough Big Ten matchup on the road. At 1 pm Sunday, Ohio State takes on a veteran-laden Maryland team that’s off to a 10-5 record in Kevin Willard’s first year at the helm.

Despite suffering lopsided losses to Michigan (81-46) and Rutgers (64-50) in their two most recent outings, the Terrapins possess a top-30 defense in the nation per KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metric. Equipped with a slew of versatile perimeter defenders, Maryland ranks top 50 in scoring defense and opponent field-goal percentage and is one of the best teams in the country at limiting opponents’ effectiveness from 3-point range.

The Buckeyes, who rank second in the nation in offensive efficiency, have faced better defenses this season, statistically speaking. But that doesn’t guarantee they’ll get anything easy on Sunday.

“I think one of the strengths of their defense is their versatility and their ability to have multiple guys that can guard multiple positions. I expect to see crowds like we’ve seen throughout this season,” Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler said Friday. “I think our guys have handled it pretty well. We have to continue to move the ball, we have to continue to move and cut. Their versatility is a strength for them.

“If you look at their numbers, especially at home, they’ve really been able to turn some teams over and we’ve got to be strong with the ball, protect the ball. They’re a good defensive team, there’s no question about it. I think sometimes you can look at numbers and say, ‘Man, what do those numbers mean exactly?’ But on tape, they’re a good defensive team. There’s just no other way about it.”

Advertisement

What to Watch For

Struggling Terp Offense

Diebler praised Maryland’s defensive numbers, but its offense has left plenty to be desired in the past couple of outings. The Terps averaged less than 50 points per game across their past two Big Ten contests and shot just 26.5% from the floor against Michigan. The Buckeyes rank only 79th in adjusted defensive efficiency, lower than both of Maryland’s past two opponents, but the Terps have been prone to poor offensive performances just the same as of late.

Parity in the Big Ten

The Big Ten season has only just begun. No team in the conference has played more than five games in league play, yet every team has lost to at least one Big Ten opponent and only Minnesota has yet to win a conference game. Two of Ohio State’s three Big Ten games so far were decided on the final play of the game, and despite Maryland’s two recent blowout losses, its first two conference contests were decided by a combined 10 points. The Buckeyes are favored in this one, even on the road, but few would be surprised if it’s a hotly contested affair.

Three Important Buckeyes

Felix Okpara

Zed Key left the Purdue game just four minutes in after aggravating a shoulder sprain that plagued him throughout the season, and Diebler and Chris Holtmann both issued no update on the health status of their starting center after the fact. That means Okpara, who logged a career-high 30 minutes in Key’s absence against Purdue, could make the first start of his true freshman season on Sunday.

UPDATE: Key (shoulder) will be unavailable against Maryland, according to a program released on Sunday morning.

Bruce Thornton

Holtmann said his starting point guard was dealing with an illness entering Thursday’s Purdue game, and Thornton played his fewest minutes in six games as a result. But against a team like Maryland, which is led by multiple tough, experienced senior guards, Ohio State will need the freshman to operate at a high capacity. After hitting double-digit scoring numbers in six straight games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 29, Thornton has failed to do so in each of the past two Big Ten contests, and the Buckeyes could use a bump in his offensive production as the conference schedule continues.

Brice Sensabaugh

Ohio State’s breakout freshman star is far removed from flying under the radar. Sensabaugh is averaging 20.2 points per game on 58.1% shooting in his past five performances, and had his fourth 20-point night of the season against No. 1 team in the country on Thursday. It’s no longer an eyebrow-raiser when Sensabaugh leads the Buckeyes in scoring. It’s an expectation. And there are no signs he’ll slow down any time soon.

Three Important Terrapins

Jahmir Young

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

Player

Position

Height

Weight

Season Stats

JAHMIR YOUNG

G

6-2

185

13.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG

JUDGE HART

G

6-6

200

11.9 PPG, 4.9 APG

NOAH BATCHELOR

G

6-6

185

2.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG

DONTA SCOTT

F

6-7

225

12.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG

JULIAN REESE

F

6-9

230

10.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG

After dominating opponents in the Conference USA with Charlotte over the past three seasons, Young has not experienced much of a lull since stepping up in competition. The 6-foot-2 senior guard is the Terps’ leading scorer with an average of 13.9 points per game, knocking down nearly 42% of his shots and 30.4% of his 3-point attempts, and he’s also putting up 4.5 rebounds and three assists a night. The Maryland native already has two 20-point games under his belt this season, and the Terps have only lost one game in which Young scored at least 18.

Donna Scott

The 6-foot-7 senior forward has 109 appearances and 94 starts in a Maryland jersey, and he’s been a rock-solid contributor for the Terps in most of them. A double-digit scorer in both his sophomore and junior seasons, Scott averaged 12.2 points per game as Maryland’s second-leading scorer as a senior. Scott connects on 50.5% of his 2-point shot attempts and is the unit’s second-leading rebounder with 5.9 a night.

Judge Hart

Another fourth-year Terp, Hart isn’t far behind Scott with averages of 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for Maryland. The 6-foot-6 guard is a more efficient shooter than both Young and Scott, hitting 53.9% of his field goals and 37.3% of his 3-point attempts. And among Terrapins who average at least two trips to the foul line per game, he’s the most accurate free-throw shooter on the team (81.4%).

How it Plays Out

Line: OSU -1.5, O/U: 141

The Terps struggled mightily to mount substantial offense against their last two Big Ten opponents, and even their stout defense has not been enough to keep them in games as of late. Ohio State has the most efficient offense Maryland’s played all season, and even if Key doesn’t suit up, the Buckeyes should close out the week with a road win.

Prediction: Ohio State 75, Maryland 67

Leave a Comment