Another slow start and another ink-drying night for D’Angelo Russell.
It’s become the norm for the Ohio State men’s basketball team as the freshman guard filled up the box score and led the Buckeyes to a 80-56 win against No. 16 Maryland on Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center.
Freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate said the victory was a result of OSU’s best performance of the season.
“We had great energy from the start. I think this was the best start we’ve gotten off to in a while,” Tate said after the game. “Great energy off the bench, everybody just played hard and played their role.”
Russell totaled 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Marc Loving chipped in with a career and game-high 19 points in the win.
“Everybody brought something to the table,” Russell said after the game. “I feel like we’re going through our stride, playing the best basketball we’ve played all year. No stopping now.”
OSU coach Thad Matta said he saw toughness from the Buckeyes, and added that he felt each player stayed within their role on the court.
“For the most part, I thought guys did what they’re supposed to,” Matta said after the game. “We rebounded the ball well, we rebounded out of our area and I thought we did a good job of the rotations defensively and walled guys up.”
Days after OSU (17-5, 6-3) fell behind early before storming back to beat then-No. 23 Indiana by 12 on Sunday, the Buckeyes turned a cold-shooting opening 10 minutes into a 34-26 halftime lead. That lead ballooned to 16 less than four minutes into the second half before OSU pulled away for its third win in a row.
Tate said the Buckeyes can’t take their recent success lightly, but have to keep working to build on the streak.
“We just gotta still continue to get better, we can’t rest on our laurels, we can’t rest on these three wins in a row,” he said. “Every week we just gotta go out there and try to play better than we did the last week.”
After losing three of their first six Big Ten games, Russell said the Buckeyes’ rough patches have helped them grow into a winner.
“I credit the losses, I feel like the losses that we had at the beginning of the year make us who we are now,” he said. “And like I said I … feel like everybody brings what they’re suppose to do to the table, there’s no turning around, we just keep going forward, keep getting better every day.”
While slow starts in recent games have turned into early deficits for the Buckeyes, their matchup with Maryland (18-4, 6-3) strayed slightly from the script.
OSU and the Terrapins combined to miss four field goals in the first minute of regulation before Tate — starting for the third straight game — made it 2-0 for the Buckeyes. Neither team scored again until Maryland freshman guard Melo Trimble made one free throw with 17:05 on the clock.
Despite struggling to score early on, Matta said his players had a good attitude in the game’s opening minutes.
“Even with the start, 3-1, at the 16-minute timeout, guys didn’t panic, we stuck with it,” he said. “I told ‘em when they got to the bench, I said, ‘Hey, good news bad news. We’ve finally outscored somebody to start the game, but it’s only 3-1.’ But that’s a good start for us, so we’ll take that.”
Trimble, who was averaging 16.3 points per game going into the matchup, didn’t score again until the second half and didn’t register a single point from the field.
The Terrapins didn’t tally their first field goal until the 12:29 mark, and the Buckeyes never lost the lead throughout the game.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon kept it simple when detailing why his team couldn’t get back into the game.
“We didn’t have it, didn’t have it all night, we could never get it going,” Turgeon said after the game. “I’ll take the blame for that.”
Russell poured in three of five first-half 3-point attempts on his way to 12 points before the break, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.
OSU stormed out of the gates in the second half as senior forward Sam Thompson’s 3-pointer with 16:10 to play gave the Buckeyes a 16-point advantage.
Maryland edged closer, but Loving’s shooting kept the Buckeyes ahead by double digits. He finished the game 5-of-5 from 3-point range. Russell made the lead 20 with a jumper with less than five minutes on the clock, all but ensuring the outcome.
Loving has come off the bench the past three games after starting OSU’s first 19 outings, but he said that hasn’t changed his mindset on the court.
“My role didn’t change on the team, and it was a good night. I was able to knock some shots down,” he said after the game. “At the end of the day, it was about the victory and that’s what we got, and I’m proud of my team.”
Tate added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Buckeyes and the team finished 10-of-17 from deep.
Matta said the play of Loving and Tate was “the difference in the game.”
“We need him (Loving) to shoot the basketball, he was set to shoot it tonight,” Matta said. “Jae’Sean’s activity, and he’s got just such great footwork and he gets it down there and he’s finishing well … You love his energy, I thought all these guys played with some great energy tonight.”
Senior guard Dez Wells led Maryland with 12 points while junior forward Jake Layman added 10.
The Buckeyes are scheduled for a two-game road trip starting with Purdue on Wednesday in West Lafayette, Ind. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m.