Ohio State (13-4, 4-0 Big Ten) is coming off by far its best win of the season, routing the then-top-ranked Michigan State Spartans 80-64 at home. But it had only three days off before defending its home court again Thursday versus a strong Maryland team (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) .
Maryland and Ohio State have played three common opponents this season: Butler, Iowa and Michigan State. Maryland rolled both Butler (79-65) and Iowa (91-73), but was crushed by Michigan State 91-61. Ohio State lost to Butler 67-66 in overtime and beat Iowa 92-81.
The game starts at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center and airs on ESPN2.
G — Kevin Huerter — Sophomore, 6-foot-7, 190 lbs., 14.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg
G — Anthony Cowan Jr. — Sophomore, 6-foot, 170 lbs., 16.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.6 apg
G — Darryl Morsell — Freshman, 6-foot-4, 205 lbs., 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.9 apg
F — Bruno Fernando — Freshman, 6-foot-10, 245 lbs., 11.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.6 apg
C — Michael Cekovsky — Senior, 7-foot-1, 250 lbs., 6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.5 apg
G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 apg
G — Kam Williams — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-2, 185 lbs., 8.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.4 apg
F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg
F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 20.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.4 apg
C — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 apg
The Terrapins have been a consistent Big Ten championship contender during the past several seasons, and that has remained true during the 2017-18 campaign. They are the No. 35 team, according to advanced statistics website KenPom.com, fueled mostly by a high-powered offense.
KenPom lists their offense as the 36th-best offense in the nation and fourth-best in conference play. Maryland has been a strong shooting team from all areas on the court, shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range and 54.9 percent from inside the arc. It is a challenging team to defend because it neither heavily relies on 3-point shooting nor interior play, deriving 29.3 percent of its offense from 3-pointers, 48.4 percent from inside and 22.3 percent from the charity stripe.
Maryland has received this offensive production despite losing forwards Justin Jackson and Ian Bender, both expected to be key offensive contributors. As a result, the Terrapins had to go from running a traditional two-guard, two-forward, one-center lineup to starting three guards, a forward and a center.
Guards Anthony Cowan Jr. and Kevin Huerter have stepped up and been the Terrapins’ two most prolific scorers and helped maintain a versatile offense that is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court.
“They’re different in some ways because of the skill that they now can put on the floor and their shooting that they can spread you out with, which is impressive. You have several guys that are shooting upwards of 40-plus percent from the 3-point line,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said Wednesday. “The reality is those guys have played well in spite of having a couple of injuries.”
The Terrapins have not been able to match the success on the other side of the court. Though they have the 46th-best adjusted defense overall, the Terrapins rank second-to-last in the conference in adjusted defense in Big Ten games, according to KenPom. Maryland has allowed a Big Ten-worst 58.5 adjusted field-goal percentage and 44.2 percent 3-point shooting. This bodes well for an Ohio State team that is No. 1 in conference play in offensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage and second in 3-point shooting.
Maryland also has had a problem with turnovers. It has the 309th-best turnover rate at 21.9 percent and has only forced 17.3 percent turnovers, 264th-best in the nation. This plays into the hands of Ohio State, which ranks No. 114 in offensive turnovers percentage (18.0 percent) and No. 109 in defensive turnovers forced percentage (20.1 percent).
Maryland is not the No. 1 team in the nation. The team is not even ranked. Ohio State faced a stiffer challenge than the Terrapins last Sunday and won convincingly. But the Terrapins are still one of the better teams in the conference, and riding the high of the Michigan State win, it’s easy to think the Buckeyes could play sluggishly and come into the game ill-prepared.
Ohio State redshirt senior guard Kam Williams said the team went into practices prior to the Michigan State game with an “unbelievable intensity” and said this is not the time for the team to get complacent given the conference slate ahead of them.
“The vibe before that [Michigan State] game was amazing, so we know we have to keep that consistent no matter who we have to play,” he said. “Like I said after the game, how we play has to be the standard in practice. It has to be the standard in every game with everything that we do. I feel like if we keep that up, that’s going to leave margin for error. So even if we do have like a lull in the game, we know what it takes now to get back to where we need to get to since we’ve proven that we’re capable of playing at a high level.”
Holtmann added that a statement win like the team had against the Spartans puts a target on Ohio State’s back. Teams will not come into Columbus expecting to walk over the Buckeyes for an easy win, despite possibly being able to do so last year.
Holtmann’s squad might have begun the season with expectations of being one of the doormats of the Big Ten, but now, just as conference play is ramping up, the Buckeyes will be faced with teams aiming to take down a now-intimidating Ohio State team.
“There’s no question that, that’s just reality that teams are going to come with a different edge right now,” Holtmann said. “I think you try to make [the players] aware that there will be a different approach. It’s not like we’re nationally ranked or we have a number one by our name, but I think you do make them aware that it’s going to be different. It’s going to feel different.”