By: Eddie Hobbs
After leading by as many as 16 points in the second half, Ohio State strung together a 9-0 run with 5:27 left in the game, capped off by a Justin Ahrens 3-pointer, and cut Maryland’s lead to just two points. The Terps quickly regained its composure, putting together their own 7-0 run, to essentially seal the 72-62 win over the Buckeyes.
Maryland’s 7-0 run was beautifully orchestrated, starting off with three free throws from Serrel Smith, who had a career-high 14 points, after getting fouled by an Ohio State defender. On the ensuing possession Duane Washington Jr. attempted an errant pass across the court which ended up in the hands of Darryl Morsell.
The sophomore guard raced down the court and was fouled by Washington Jr and hit two free throws to add to Maryland’s lead.
Morsell attempted a 3-pointer a few possessions later, but was off the mark, and Bruno Fernando cleaned up the offensive rebound. Fernando corralled the ball and scanned the court for any cutters. Fernando located Aaron Wiggins streaking inside the paint, and Wiggins caught Fernando’s pass and rose up for a monster slam to finish off the Terps’ run.
“We’ve worked really hard on what we do after an offensive rebounds and so it was great to see Aaron [Wiggins] cutting,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Bruno made the play, it was terrific… it was probably one of our best possessions of the game.”
Fernando had all of his 14 points in the second half, struggling to get going early. Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson constantly forced Fernando out of the paint when receiving entry passes in the first half, not allowing Fernando to get an inside presence.
Fernando attempted a fadeaway shot that clanged off the rim on one of his two attempts from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. The shot is an anomaly for the big man, who hasn’t attempted many fadeaway’s this season.
“I think I was a little confused there in the first half,” Fernando admitted. “Just trying to figure out how they are guarding me. In the second half I got a handle on that, so it got a lot easier for me.”
In the opening minutes of the game Maryland struggled to get things going, starting off 0-of-3 from the field. The opening few minutes of games have been the achilles heel for this Terps’ team throughout the season.
It was Cowan who led the Terps through their early slump, starting out with 5 points and two assists in the opening 10 minutes on 2-of-2 shooting from the field. Normally Cowan starts off slow and turns it on in the second half, but against Ohio State, he got things going to jumpstart Maryland.
A notable difference in this game was the play of Eric Ayala. The freshman guard played in just 10 minutes of action before he was subbed out and proceeded to the locker room. Turgeon said that Ayala was trying to play through an illness and “wasn’t himself.”
With Ayala out of the lineup for most of the game Turgeon had to turn to some of his younger players to step up. One of those guys was freshman Serrel Smith, who got things going with 2:41 to go in the first half.
Turgeon subbed in Smith for Morsell and he immediately got on the board with a triple to push Maryland’s lead to five. He then drew a foul and knocked down 1-of-2 free throws before making a beautiful layup with just under a minute left in the half.
Smith would finish out the half with eight points and gave Maryland a nice boost when his number was called. Turgeon preaches to his players to be ready whenever called upon, and Smith rose to the challenge.
“You tell guys to be ready when their number is called. He exemplified that today. I say to people all the time that I wish I could play Serrel more,” Turgeon said. “He really stepped up and you could see from the beginning that he was going to play well.”
Maryland entered the half with a slim 33-28 lead, and came out of the tunnel with a couple of Fernando post ups that worked better than his first half attempts.
Fernando was able to put together seven points in just five minutes of play to energize Maryland, and the Xfinity Center crowd.
Ohio State struggled to put anything together in the middle of the second half. The Buckeyes went on a 4:58 field goal drought, while Maryland started to pull away on an 11-0 run. The defensive effort to start the second half was excellent for the Terps, as they hounded Ohio State on plenty of field goal attempts.
Maryland’s lead ballooned to as many as 16 points before Ohio State’s’ Washington Jr. converted a layup to break its scoring drought. The Buckeyes then began to slowly chip away at the Terps’ lead behind an onslaught of 3-point attempts.
The lead that Maryland had built up was dwindled down to just two points with 5:27 to go. The defensive intensity that was present for most of the game had disappeared in a blink of an eye, but with a win under his belt, Turgeon was happy that the team eventually pulled away from a dangerous Ohio State team.
“I’m disappointed with the way we played defensively during that stretch. We made a lot of mistakes. We weren’t alert–there was a soft foul on a three-point play. That’s disappointing,” Turgeon said. “But, you’d much rather learn in a win than learn in a loss, so we can watch that with guys who weren’t playing as well in that stretch.”