Prior to the last two games, Maryland basketball looked a struggling squad. Losses against Penn State and Seton Hall exposed the Terps’ often lethargic offense. But with Donta Scott’s flying dunk midway through the second half of last week’s contest against Indiana ignited something, showing glimpses of an offense ready to awaken.
Maryland has won two in a row since the start of their home stand and hope to finish it with a win against Ohio State — its toughest opponent to date. A convincing win against Indiana highlighted this season’s most impressive performance against a Big Ten opponent, and one the Terps will look to build on.
Ohio State poses a massive threat in that mission. The Buckeyes started the season dismantling teams such as Villanova, North Carolina and Kentucky, with ease. On December 21, they stood at 11-1, and looked like one of the best teams in college basketball. And although recent injuries, tough losses, and close games have seen them slide to no. 11 in the latest AP poll, Ohio State is a dangerous squad.
“They’re tremendous defensively, very athletic, they’re a deep basketball team,” said Coach Turgeon. “If things go well in March, they can win it all. They’re that good of a team.”
Last year, the Terps handled the Buckeyes, sweeping the season series. Their two wins came thanks to their offensive firepower, winning both games by a combined 24 points.
This year, Ohio State poses a more threatening squad. Its most dangerous player is junior forward Kaleb Wesson. The Ohio native leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks and has established himself as one of the best players in the Big Ten. Wesson has claimed more of an all-around role this season, partially due to his development of an intimidating three point shot, converting a sound 43% from the perimeter. In addition, his smaller frame has helped him guard almost all five positions with ease, thanks largely to his lateral quickness.
“In my mind he gives them a chance to win a national championship,” said Turgeon. “There’s not many like him in college basketball.”
At the guard position, Duane Washington is easily the team’s best deep threat and the second best shooter in the conference, converting 47% of his attempts from beyond the arc. But he’s not alone in his status as a dangerous shooter. Washington and Wesson are just two of five players on the team converting their three pointers at above a 40% clip.
The Buckeyes have seemingly found a brand new offensive identity this year thanks to the development of Wesson. In contrast, Maryland has struggled to find the same bite that carried them last season. The Terps have relied on their prowess at the other end of the floor, posting numerous great defensive performances, allowing them to add to their win column in different ways.
For the Terps, the key is to keep the game as close as possible. Strong shooting teams will go on runs, but the Buckeyes lack closers and struggle to finish in close matchups. Maryland should expect the Buckeyes to come out firing, and must have an equal response on the defensive end in order to remain undefeated at Xfinity.