By Eric Myers
After a physically and emotionally draining game at Illinois on Sunday night, which saw Maryland’s three sophomores — Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson — play over 40 minutes, Maryland (8-3,1-1 Big Ten) was able to start fast and cruise to an 87-62 win over Ohio (4-4) on Thursday night at the Xfinity Center.
Looking to avoid a letdown against their MAC conference opponent after their first Big Ten win of the season, Maryland looked to start fast to subside any uneasy feelings about the outcome.
“The last two games, we’ve started really well. We really talked about playing 40 [complete] minutes tonight. We didn’t play 40, but we’re getting closer,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “That was a pretty dominant performance, except for the [turnovers].”
Maryland began the game by scoring 13 of the first 15 points as the Terps raced out to a sizeable lead in the opening four minutes. With Ohio’s tallest player, Doug Taylor, standing at 6-foot-9, Maryland had a distinct advantage on the interior. During their quick start, the Terps exploited that mismatch by scoring eight points in the paint.
“[Getting touches inside] was our plan,” senior center Michal Cekovsky said. “We talked before the game, play inside-out and we did it, posted the ball more because finally we could run our plays [against a smaller frontcourt].”
Ohio was able to cut into the Maryland lead as the home team continued turning the ball over, leading to offensive opportunities for the Bobcats, who found themselves down 22-14 just over 10 minutes into the game.
Jackson, who was unable to finish practice just a day earlier and did not start for the first time this season, seized Ohio’s momentum by scoring eight quick points in three possessions, with two three-point shots and a layup off of a post move.
Maryland took a 41-28 lead into halftime with a dominant first half showing from their frontcourt as Jackson, 10 points, and Cekovsky, 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, led the way.
Huerter, who came into the game shooting a staggering 45 percent from beyond the three-point line, opened the second half scoring with two threes and a fastbreak layup during a 10-3 spurt that also included a Cekovsky lay-in, as Maryland’s lead quickly ballooned to 19.
With 11:21 remaining in the second half, after a missed three-point shot from Ohio’s Kevin Mickle, Bruno Fernando landed awkwardly while attempting to corral a defensive rebound. The Terps’ freshman big man had to be helped off the floor and would not return to the game.
“Just with our program, it seems like injuries are all too familiar,” Huerter said. “So, at this point, anytime someone goes down, I think everyone kind of holds their breath.”
Maryland was able to remain focused on the game despite the injury to Fernando, which was announced as a sprained right ankle. The Terps’ lead the remainder of the game would not shrink below 18 points for the final 11 minutes as any Bobcat momentum was immediately answered.
Behind a strong all around performance from Cowan, 12 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, and 11 second half points from Huerter, Maryland was able to close the game after building a large lead. The Terps, who lost a 22 point lead in their previous contest, leaned on their key players to avoid a similar fate.
The Terrapins will now turn their attention to a Gardner-Webb team that will come to College Park for a Saturday afternoon matinee at 12:30. Maryland figures to continue to have a noticeable size advantage over their next four opponents, even without Fernando who Turgeon expects to miss at least the next two contests, as they continue their nonconference schedule away from the physical Big Ten conference.
“I don’t know anything about Gardner-Webb, and I’m sure Catholic doesn’t have a lot of 7-footers running around, so there’ll be a lot of little guys out there,” Turgeon said. “It’s an opportunity for people [with Fernando not playing].”