It’s hard to believe the Ohio State basketball team’s win against then-No. 6 Kentucky occurred just 17 days ago.
In the time since the Buckeyes knocked off the Wildcats and vaulted themselves to No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll, they’ve lost back-to-back games against then-No. 22 West Virginia in Cleveland and unranked Wisconsin at home.
Now, No. 11 Ohio State (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) travels to No. 12 Maryland (12-2, 2-1) as its Big Ten schedule rolls on.
“[Maryland] is good and long and talented and well coached and playing really good right now,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said.
Junior forward Kyle Young, the Buckeyes’ No. 2 rebounder and No. 4 scorer, missed the game against Wisconsin after having his appendix removed, and Holtmann said the big man could also miss the upcoming contest.
Junior forward Kaleb Wesson attempted to pick up Young’s slack against Wisconsin, scoring 22 of the team’s 57 points in a losing attempt.
“If Kaleb’s the only one scoring, it’s just easier to get more attention on Kaleb,” redshirt junior guard CJ Walker said. “So I just feel like we’ve gotta find that equal balance.”
The Buckeyes average 76.1 points per game, but failed to eclipse 60 in both of their recent losses.
The two contests were the second and third times Ohio State failed to shoot above 40 percent this season. It has also allowed second chances for the opposition, with the Badgers scraping together 10 offensive boards.
“We were not able to make enough plays there late [against Wisconsin], and the offensive rebounds really hurt us,” Holtmann said.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ defensive numbers are holding steady.
They allow 58.4 points per game, ninth-fewest in the nation, and Wisconsin could only muster 61 on 38 percent shooting.
Maryland ranks No. 8 in the Big Ten at 75.4 points per game, shooting the second-worst from the field at 42 percent.
Maryland’s offense runs through senior guard Anthony Cowan, who paces the Terrapins in points, assists, steals and minutes.
Six-foot-10 sophomore forward Jalen Smith anchors the team from the inside, second in scoring behind Cowan with 13.5 points per game. With 9.9 rebounds per game, he averages a near double-double, and his 2.3 blocks per game are tied for No. 3 in the Big Ten.
Smith will have a key matchup with Wesson, Ohio State’s leading scorer and rebounder.
Holtmann said Wesson’s weight loss during the offseason and his resulting athleticism will help limit Smith’s effectiveness.
“I think his mobility helps him for sure with a guy like Jalen Smith, who is long and lean and slender and moves well, and slips out of ball screens — his length is such a factor,” Holtmann said. “I do think that there’s no question that Kaleb’s change helps him with guys like that.”
One area in which Holtmann said Ohio State failed against Wisconsin was its guard play during the final four minutes. Crunch-time drills have taken place during recent practices.
“You’ve gotta stay on tap with the coaching staff, whether it’s playcalling or making sure everybody’s in the right spot,” Walker said. “We haven’t been in these situational-type games, one-possession games with a couple minutes left. We’ve had pretty good wins before, so we’ve just gotta engage and stay connected and stay focused at all times.”
Walker and his fellow guards will put their practice into play when Ohio State and Maryland tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday in College Park, Maryland.