With a victory against Maryland Sunday, Ohio State men’s basketball not only redeemed a prior loss, but knocked off its fourth top 10 team of the season.
No. 25 Ohio State (18-9, 8-8 Big Ten) outlasted No. 7 Maryland (22-5, 12-4) at the Schottenstein Center, holding onto a 79-72 win despite several late-game scares.
“This is who we need to be consistently,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think I expected that we would perform well because I think we’ve got a competitive group, but also as a coach you’re so — I was tied in knots the last day and a half because sometimes it’s hard to read your group.”
It was Ohio State’s first matchup with a top 10 opponent since it beat three of them in November and December, but that was before the Buckeyes dropped six games out of seven, including a blowout to then-No. 12 Maryland Jan. 7.
But Sunday’s iteration saw a far more competitive affair.
Maryland sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins cut a once 14-point Buckeye lead to four with a 3-pointer in the final three minutes.
Ohio State sophomore guard Duane Washington returned fire with a floater on the other end to keep the Buckeyes up two possessions with 2:12 left.
Four free throws from Ohio State sophomore guard Luther Muhammad in the final 48 seconds helped ice it for the Buckeyes, even after another 3 from Wiggins made it a four-point game once again in the last 30 seconds.
Muhammad finished with a season-high 22 points.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to that. I’m happy we won,” Muhammad said. “I’m happy we all played hard, we all stayed together, they made a lot of runs, they dug themselves back into the game.”
Maryland leading scorer and senior guard Anthony Cowan fouled out of the game with a technical for kicking in the direction of junior forward Kaleb Wesson’s head with less than four minutes to play. Cowan finished with 10 points and seven assists.
To start the second half, a 3 from Kaleb Wesson and a eurostep layup from redshirt junior guard CJ Walker bookended a 7-0 run that put the Buckeyes ahead 14 points.
“We talked about it at halftime. This is gonna say something about us — how we start this second half against one of the best teams in the country,” Holtmann said.
But 20 points from Wiggins on the night were enough to keep Maryland in the game until the buzzer sounded.
Ohio State finished the first half with 40 points — nearly twice its output in the first Maryland matchup — and a seven-point lead against the Terrapins with the help of three 3-pointers from Muhammad.
Two of Muhammad’s makes from beyond the arc on back-to-back possessions in the final three minutes of the half broke a tie game to put the Buckeyes up 36-31.
While shooting near their season average from the field, the Buckeyes were particularly hot from deep in the first half, as Muhammad’s 3-pointers were part of an 8-for-16 shooting half from behind the line for Ohio State.
Senior forward Andre Wesson knocked down two triples of his own in the opening 8:12, the second of which put the Buckeyes up 18-14.
Walker connected on two shots from downtown and found Kaleb Wesson on a pick-and-pop look from 3 with 4:14 to play in the half.
Kaleb Wesson’s first make from the field came just 1:14 earlier, and he finished with eight points in the half.
On defense, Kaleb Wesson held Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith to just two points in the first half and eight for the game. Smith entered the game averaging a Terrapin second-best 15.2 per game.
“When Kaleb plays like this, he impacts the game at a high level on both ends and plays like one of the best bigs in the country,” Holtmann said.
A trio of Maryland guards kept Maryland well within striking range though, as Wiggins, Cowan and sophomore Eric Ayala combined for 20 of the Terrapins’ 33 first-half points.
Ohio State junior forward Kyle Young went down with an apparently lower body injury following a shot attempt in the first half and went to the locker room. He did not return, and Holtmann said after the game that Young’s injury was a high ankle sprain.
Ohio State goes back on the road to take on Nebraska at 9 p.m. Thursday.