After finishing the regular season a perfect 10-0 in Big Ten play at home, the Terps took to the road for the first of their final two opportunities to get right away from Xfinity Center.
Instead, Maryland men’s basketball (20-10, 11-8 Big Ten) stumbled from the start again as it fell at Ohio State (13-17, 5-14 Big Ten), 73-62, in its penultimate regular season game Wednesday.
The loss drops the Terps to 1-8 on the road in conference play and into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten standings, the last position to earn a double-bye in the conference tournament.
Maryland got off to another lethargic start on the road despite making its first two shots. A pair of Ohio State three-pointers powered a 12-0 Buckeyes run that forced Willard timeout to call a timeout less than four minutes into the game.
The Terps struggled to create offensive opportunities early as they struggled with turnovers. Despite giving the ball away less frequently in recent games, Maryland turned the ball over five times in the first nine minutes and finished the half with seven giveaways.
“We just did some things early on in the game again that, you know, you just scratch your head,” coach Kevin Willard said. “This one is disappointing … We just looked very lethargic.”
Coach Kevin Willard’s squad fought back from an early double-digit point deficit to hang around with the Buckeyes, finding some success with Julian Reese in the post. The sophomore made a short jumper over freshman Ohio State center Felix Okpara to snap the Buckeyes’ run before posting up and finding Jahmir Young behind the arc for the Terps’ first three of the game.
Reese finished the first half with eight points and six rebounds, both team-highs. The sophomore recorded his fourth straight double-double and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Donta Scott and Don Carey added three-pointers later in the half as Maryland attempted to keep up with an Ohio State team that made four of its seven attempts from deep in the opening 20 minutes.
Despite rebounding from its poor start and shooting 54.5 percent in the first half, the Terps’ poor start meant they took a 35-29 deficit into the break.
That gap quickly grew after Maryland missed four straight field goals to start the second half.
A Hakim Hart intentional foul after a Reese turnover led to two free throws and a jumper from Ohio State freshman Brice Sensabaugh. The four-point possession gave the Buckeyes what was then their largest lead at 13 just four minutes into the second frame.
Ian Martinez provided a boost off the bench, hitting a mid-range jumper before nailing two three-pointers — a total of eight straight points to cut the deficit to single digits.
However, Ohio State continued to swing momentum back in its direction every time Maryland clawed closer.
The Terps came close to forcing a turnover at midcourt after getting their deficit down to eight with just over six minutes to go, but couldn’t dive on the loose ball. Bruce Thornton passed the ball forward while on the ground, and Sensabaugh lofted an alley-oop to Okpara that he slammed home to the delight of the home crowd.
“Every time we got a stop, we gave them an offensive rebound. I thought we had a 10-second call, we don’t dive on the floor, they get a dunk,” Willard said. “We just never put two or three stops [or] two or three good offensive possessions together.”
Okpara helped to stifle much of Maryland’s offense on the inside throughout the game as Young failed to find a way past the 6-foot-11 center despite his usual success at the basket.
Despite dropping a joint career-high 30 points in the earlier matchup between the two teams, Young wasn’t able to score in double digits for the first time in 15 games. The rest of the Terps failed to step up without production from their top-scorer, while Ohio State had six players score in double figures.
The Buckeyes were sent to the free throw line multiple times in the final minutes, finishing the game a perfect 20-for-20 from the charity stripe. A brief comeback effort from Willard’s squad fell short as Maryland dropped its eighth conference game away from home and split its season series with Ohio State.