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Men’s Basketball: Ohio State finds new struggles on defense in defeat to Maryland

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann talks to freshman guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) in the second half of the game against Maryland. Ohio State lost 75-61. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

During Ohio State’s ongoing losing streak, which was stretched to four games following the Buckeyes’ 75-61 defeat to No. 19 Maryland, many of the struggles have been on the offensive side.

After giving up 86 points to Michigan State, Ohio State allowed its next two opponents to shoot a combined 43.5 percent from the field in its losses to Rutgers and Iowa.

But on Friday, it was the Buckeyes’ defense that hurt them the most.

The Terrapins shot 58.1 percent from the field and 64.7 from deep in the 14-point win, while Ohio State shot 23.1 percent from behind the arc and 39 percent overall.

“I think my biggest frustration tonight was our lack of activity defensively,” head coach Chris Holtmann said.

In the days leading up to the Maryland matchup, Holtmann described the offense as Ohio State’s major issue during the streak.

In previous defeats, the Buckeyes were sloppy with the ball, turning it over a season-high 21 times against the Hawkeyes, and failing to hit shots down the stretch, shooting less than 40 percent in the second halves of both of the previous defeats.

Against the Terrapins, there were more of the same issues, with Ohio State shooting 9-for-29 overall in the final 20 minutes, including a span of more than six minutes where the Buckeyes were held scoreless.

But even with the continued issues scoring the basket, Holtmann said it was the defense that let him down in the loss.

Senior guard C.J. Jackson said it doesn’t come down to talent, but effort, and it’s costing the team in the recent stretch.

“The biggest thing is we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot, whether it’s a bad shot or just not defending well enough,” Jackson said. “We’re very capable, I mean we’re in the game most of these games, goes down to the last couple minutes, I guess you could say that’s what’s frustrating.”

Even with Maryland hitting 3 pointers more than it was missing them, the Buckeyes were largely defeated due to the Terrapins’ presence down low.

The pair of 6-foot-10 forwards, sophomore Bruno Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith, were able to find space inside against the smaller sophomore forwards of Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young, forcing both players off the court with foul troubles.

Fernando and Smith combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting, helping Maryland out rebound Ohio State 33-26.

In the loss that continued the longest losing streak since Holtmann has arrived at Ohio State, new problems surfaced defensively.

But there were improvements in areas that had been major concerns through the past three defeats.

Ohio State committed 10 turnovers against Maryland, 11 fewer than the previous game, while forcing 19 on the defensive side.

Holtmann said there were large segments of the game where he was pleased with how the offense was finding shots, even if they weren’t falling.

With a four-game losing streak after winning 12 of the first 13 games, the Buckeyes are falling from contention in the Big Ten.

Matchups against Purdue, Nebraska and No. 2 Michigan are next on the schedule, and with defensive and offensive struggles alike causing issues with the team, it will take a complete change in momentum to shift the tides.

Jackson said the team’s confidence won’t be a cause for concern.

“I don’t think confidence should be an issue with anybody,” Jackson said. “At this point, confidence shouldn’t be an issue to anybody in the locker room, and I don’t think that’s it.”

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