Donta Scott, Aaron Wiggins and Ohio State’s offense: Three takeaways from Maryland’s defeat against No. 4 Ohio State

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Monday night’s matchup was one between two sides that are only as good as the sum of their parts. The Terps and the Buckeyes both utilize gameplans that are predicated on the concerted effort of everyone on the floor, making them especially hard to play while at their best. 

Although neither team was playing at its peak, things looked promising for a while, still, it was evident even Maryland’s (10-10, 4-9 B1G) best was no match for Ohio State’s (16-4, 10-4 B1G) high-octane basketball. The Terps were handed their second straight loss because of the mismatch and earned their tenth loss, a mark head coach Mark Turgeon has hit only two other seasons while at Maryland. 

“I hate losing,” Turgeon said. “We all do. It’s not fun.”

Aaron Wiggins bounced back after a rough night. 

Aaron Wiggins held much of the offensive weight all night after a tough night at Penn State and his efforts translated to a team-high 17 points. Wiggin’s jarring 2-point outing at Happy Valley was his worst of the season, but much of his usefulness on the court against the Nittany Lions came on the defensive end where he managed to force multiple turnovers. 

The junior guard aptly adjusted following his horrid performance and went off on offense. First, with eight points in the opening half and nine more points in the second. Wiggins also tied a career-high with six assists on the night all while giving up the ball only once. 

He began his offensive tear with a pair of layups in the early minutes of the game. One being off a nifty pirouette into a left handed finger-roll on Kyle Young and the other off a hard cut to set up an easy right handed finish on a smaller Duane Washington Jr. 

Wiggins’ first four points in subsequent possessions helped forge Maryland’s largest lead of the night at eight, but as quickly it was realized it vanished thanks to two back-to-back threes by Washington and a third triple from Seth Towns to punctuate Ohio State’s 9-0 run. Wiggins managed to score four more in the period in spite of Ohio State’s masterful offensive display. 

His team-high eight points on 50% shooting in the first half served as a bright spot for Maryland’s rapidly declining offense Monday night. Wiggins’ nine points in the final 20 minutes all came at an attempt to regain momentum they had lost earlier in the game. However, foul trouble kept him out when the team needed him most: while Maryland was establishing a comeback effort. 

Ohio State brought a new look on offense but Maryland still couldn’t manage.

As opposed to sticking to the script and playing the slow, conservative basketball that has made the Buckeyes a top five force, Ohio State opted to rain threes often and early. Only four paint points in the first half came from a Ryan Young post up and subsequent layup — the remainder of their points came from midrange or from deep. This new offensive aggressiveness gave Ohio State a 50% mark from range on 16 attempts in the opening half.

“We played hard but we didn’t play smart in the first half defensively,” Turgeon said. “There were probably three or four [threes] that we gave up that we probably shouldn’t have gave up and they made all of them in the first half.”

Most of the team’s triples came from Washington, who drained two of his threes in quick succession on back-to-back possessions in a manner not typical of this year’s Ohio State offense. His second three, came in transition at the expense of a disjointed Maryland defense, typifying the Buckeyes early 9-0 run and first half three point success. 

“They shoot it quick,” guard Eric Ayala said. “I didn’t know they shot it that quick. In transition and stuff — even in the halfcourt.”

Many of the other Buckeyes’ triples were the same. Justin Ahrens’ first three came off a side step in the face of a solid contest by Wiggins with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Seth Towns’ first three also came with a contest early in the possession, this time from Donta Scott, and only a jab step was used to create some space. 

The Terps were ready for a controlled, methodical battle against one of the slower offensive teams in the nation, with Turgeon even going as far as to start Jairus Hamilton, Galin Smith and Donta Scott together to provide the teams best length and size in anticipation of the downhill attack Ohio State often uses to pick apart defenses. They were instead welcomed back at XFINITY Center with a three point barrage that stifled their defense early and made it almost impossible to capture any sort of momentum. 

The offensive fireworks were awfully reminiscent of what the Terps did to Ohio State last season at XFINITY, draining nearly half of their threes for the entire contest in a year where their three-point shot wasn’t exactly their forte. Once again, the two sides met at XFINITY with one side finding success from deep, deviating from its normal style of play. 

Ohio State went on to return to their normal brand of grit-and-grind basketball and easily notched 20 paint points, outscoring the Terps in that area, after posting just four in the previous half. Young and EJ Liddell were the two sole contributors in the paint in the final period with Young accounting for 13 of the team’s 20 paint points. Ohio State still attempted 10 threes but a combination of improved perimeter defense and missed shots only allowed for two makes. 

Donta Scott has not been himself recently. 

After being a relatively consistent source of offense throughout the season, Scott has gone cold in his last three outings. The sophomore just barely scored double-digits Monday night after scoring nine and seven points in his prior two games. Scott’s 11 points was an improvement, but Monday’s match was especially concerning because of his game-high six turnovers, four of which led to easy points on the other end of the floor. 

It wasn’t too long ago when Turgeon made it clear that even he had no idea what this Maryland team would be without the services of Scott. After the forward had solidified his role on the team early in his sophomore campaign as a big-time athlete with his numerous highlight posters and big time shots, it seemed like there was nowhere to go but up. Now it looks like the Terps are getting a little feel of a reality without the hounding offensive talents of Scott. 

It’s clear Scott isn’t himself. And it’s clear that his offensive production would help Maryland this time of year. It’s possible Scott’s tentativeness and overall struggles to find open looks is partially a result of solid scouting by Maryland’s Big Ten opponents. It’s also possible that this is merely a shooting slump. 

Regardless, it would be great for the Terps to have a unified offensive attack that includes Scott, Wiggins, and Ayala playing at a high level. A trio that plays in fragments and ebbs and flows is barely a threat on offense. This seems like a huge ask for a Maryland team that oftentimes struggles to even buy a shot on the offensive end. Probably because it is.