A wide-open Maryland senior center Michal Cekovsky found the ball in the corner and ran untouched to the rim where he dunked the ball to put Maryland up 20-13 with 10:16 remaining in the half. An infuriated Holtmann called a timeout and spent the next minute chewing out his team for the lackluster defensive effort.
The meeting worked.
Ohio State responded with a 15-2 run and finished the half on a 31-12 run to take a 44-32 halftime lead. The Buckeyes expanded their lead in the second half and Ohio State (14-4, 5-0 Big Ten) rolled Maryland (14-5, 3-3 Big Ten) 91-69 for its fifth conference win.
“I think that’s all we needed was a kick in the butt to get us going,” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said.
Holtmann joked that he could not say too much publicly about what he said during the meeting, but that the point of it was to drive home the point that Maryland is a tough team even with the injuries they’ve had to deal with.
“We’ve got to act like we care a little bit on the defensive end and if you don’t, a team like Maryland with their guard play and their ability and their like it’s going to be a long night,” Holtmann said. “[The coaching staff] just challenged [the players]. We just had some really poor missed assignments and we really lacked some attention to detail and it wasn’t all young guys. It was a combination of some young and older guys.”
For most of the game, Ohio State was untouchable from 3-point range. It made a season-high 17 3s on 29 attempts (59 percent), it’s most efficient shooting of the season. The Buckeyes shot 56 percent from the field. Ohio State proved efficient in the passing game all day, finishing with 25 assists to only nine turnovers.
Ohio State’s nine turnovers was its third straight game with single-digits after Holtmann made it an emphasis early in the season to lower the total from what had been consistently in double-digits. Redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said it has been a product of cleaning things up during practice that has translated to the game.
“We just work on it in practice like footwork,” Bates-Diop said. “A lot of our turnovers were travels or little stuff like that that we work on a lot in practice.”
Maryland shot just 37 percent from the field. Cekovsky led them with 18 points.
Ohio State’s first-half run was sparked by eight points from redshirt senior guard Andrew Dakich, who finished with a career-high 11 points. He was 3-for-4 from 3.
Ohio State took the lead during that run after a block by Tate, who caught a pass from Bates-Diop and slammed a dunk to take a 24-22 lead with 7:25 left in the half. The Buckeyes never relinquished their hold on the advantage.
Maryland made two free-throws, but Bates-Diop responded with back-to-back 3s and Dakich added his third 3 of the night to put Ohio State up 34-24. Bates-Diop, who began the game 0-for-3 from the field and missed his first triple, finished the game leading both teams with 26 points. He also had eight rebounds.
Ohio State quickly resumed its domination of Maryland in the second half, stretching the lead to 19 with an 8-0 run. Maryland went on a 5-0 run, but when a Maryland defender blocked a pass, it bounced right back to Ohio State freshman center Kaleb Wesson, who grabbed the ball and made a contested layup that resulted in an and-one, which he promptly completed.
With 13:28 left in the game, junior guard C.J. Jackson made a 3 to put Ohio State up 61-40. After a steal by Dakich turned into a fast-break chance, Dakich missed the layup on the other end, but Jackson pushed the ball up on the other side of the basket to grab the points and push the lead to 63-40.
“We’re going to go with an assist,” Dakich joked about the missed shot. “That was just bad. That was a shot.”
Maryland began the game on fire from beyond the arc, making its first three 3-pointers, most coming on open looks. However, it finished the game going just 8-for-22 from the 3 overall.