Little room for mistakes for Maryland as the season finale inches closer

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

No. 7 Ohio State (15-4, 9-4 B1G) might be Maryland’s (10-9, 4-8 B1G) final ranked opponent of the regular season. 

And with a win, Maryland can avoid slipping back to a .500 record. A key for that will be the Terps putting their abysmal 50-point outing behind them and recapturing what made them great in the moments they seemed like world-beaters.

Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes have accomplished the impossible after the departure of some of their best athletes, including their leading scorer Kaleb Wesson, who played a massive role in their rise to Big Ten prominence last season. 

Without any significant starpower, it seems the Buckeyes have made do in an incredibly talented conference that at one point consisted of nine ranked teams. And currently, Ohio State looks dead set on stealing Michigan’s leading position in the Big Ten. 

“Ohio State is terrific, they’re a great team,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They’ve got good players, they’re well coached, they’re very disciplined. They’re one of the deeper teams in the league.” 

Even so, the Terps and the Buckeyes have some in common. Beyond the relatively small lineups and the red colors they wear, both teams are at their best on offense when the ball is moving at a slow, controlled tempo. Both rely heavily on sound defensive schemes and both have spent a good portion of the season being overlooked. 

But unlike the Terps, the Buckeyes have managed to separate themselves from their peers by playing a balanced and consistent brand of basketball. The type of basketball that holds up in the clutch and can hold up against the nations best on a regular basis. 

If the Terps turn the ball over at the rate they have in their previous two outings with 25 total giveaways, they can expect a clinic on the opposite side of the ball. Despite playing at somewhat of a glacial pace in a halfcourt setting, (sitting at 266th in adjusted tempo), Ohio State can run in transition and get to the cup at will. 

And when the Buckeyes get moving downhill they typically get calls, posing potential problems for Maryland’s sometimes foul-prone defense. Ohio State’s 23 free throw attempts per contest and 76% clip at the charity stripe is enough for second in the Big Ten in both categories. 

However, fortunately for Maryland, they’ve seen this style of play at Minnesota, a team that leads the conference with 24 free throw attempts per game. Despite pulling off the victory, Darryl Morsell (who eventually fouled out), Galin Smith, Jairus Hamilton and Aaron Wiggins spent a good portion of the contest in foul trouble. 

Similar problems may arise if the Terps aren’t disciplined on that side of the ball. However, if Turgeon’s zone defense can realize the success that it had against prior offenses like Wisconsin or Illinois, the Buckeyes could have some difficulties drawing fouls in the lane. 

Still, Holtmann’s top tier offense would be nothing without the depth that three-point shooting provides. Ohio State shoots at a 35% mark as a team with both guards and forwards who can convert from range if needed.

Ultimately, this match will come down to Maryland’s ability to limit mistakes that a force like Ohio State will inevitably capitalize on. If the half court defense is porous expect EJ Liddell to have his way at the rim. Maryland also can’t afford predictable half court sets, as the likes of CJ Walker, Justice Sueing and Kyle Young can wreak havoc defensively. And most importantly, the Terps need to recapture what has made them successful in the past, otherwise they can expect to score significantly less than their top ten foe.

The window is closing for Maryland to have an opportunity to make a splash in March, making another trademark Big Ten upset by as crucial as ever. 

“We’re fighting and scratching and clawing trying to get better,” Turgeon said. “If you know me, if you’ve been watching, we’re never giving up.”

Tipoff is at 9:00 pm and this matchup will air on FS1.

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