With their NCAA tournament hopes flickering, the Terrapins lost, 73-65, at Xfinity Center after allowing the Buckeyes to control the game in the second half. Ohio State (16-4, 10-4) led by as many as 16 before Maryland (10-10, 4-9) started to cut back into the advantage only in the final minutes. Maryland let the game slip away during a 13-minute stretch spanning both halves during which the Terps made only 1 of 15 field goal attempts, including nine straight misses after the break.
“We go through those lulls,” Turgeon said. “That’s just who we are. We’ve got to keep guarding. And we didn’t guard during that stretch the way we needed to guard.”
Sophomore forward Donta Scott finally ended that rut by making a layup with 12:48 left, but the Buckeyes had already built a double-digit lead by then. Junior guards Aaron Wiggins (17 points, six assists) and Eric Ayala (13 points, seven rebounds) led the Terps’ offensive effort, but the team’s extended ruts made it impossible for Maryland to stay in the game. Scott added 11 points but also committed six of the team’s 12 turnovers.
“Every little mistake we made, they just took advantage of it,” Wiggins said, referencing Ohio State’s 21 points off turnovers.
Maryland’s defense, which has been a strength recently, let Ohio State push ahead as the first half progressed. The Buckeyes shot 8 for 16 from three-point range in the first half on their way to finishing 10 for 26. Ohio State entered Monday averaging 8.2 made threes per game, but the Terps allowed far too many open shots and let the Buckeyes generate a 14-1 run late in the half.
One of Maryland’s keys to the game, Turgeon said, was to not allow Duane Washington Jr. and Justin Ahrens get open shots. Both players had plenty of good looks, hitting three shots from deep apiece. The defensive lapses came because of missed assignments and some trouble in transition.
“We played hard,” Turgeon said, “but we didn’t play smart in the first half defensively.”
Ohio State’s success from deep consistently offered the Buckeyes a boost when they needed one in the early going. After Maryland jumped out to a 13-5 lead, Washington hit back-to-back threes. His teammate Seth Towns knocked one down on the next possession, capping the Buckeyes’ 9-0 run that gave them a lead. Maryland responded, building a six-point advantage, but Ohio State followed the same script with a quick burst of three-pointers and led 35-30 by halftime.
Maryland’s offense showed progress from its abysmal outing against Penn State, with better ball movement against the Buckeyes, but the Terps’ production faded because of their long field goal droughts.
“I feel like early on, we came out, we made good decisions, the ball didn’t stick and stuff just flowed better,” Ayala said. “Obviously, we can make more shots and maybe our offense affected our defense. ... So it was like a snowball effect.”
Turgeon employed a different starting lineup against the Buckeyes, bringing senior guard Darryl Morsell off the bench for the third time this season. Jairus Hamilton, a 6-8 forward, started in Morsell’s place alongside Scott and Galin Smith as Turgeon opted for three forwards. Hamilton went 0 for 6 from the field and finished with two points, and Morsell was in the lineup to start the second half. He scored eight points in 30 minutes.
The Terps’ lack of a consistent frontcourt presence has been exposed all season by the conference’s top big men, but Ohio State’s roster aligns more with Maryland’s. The Terps outscored the Buckeyes 32-24 in the paint, which helped compensate for their poor shooting from deep. Maryland finished 5 for 19 from behind the arc.
Monday’s game against the Buckeyes was the most significant challenge left on Maryland’s schedule. The Terps’ tournament aspirations haven’t evaporated, but Maryland’s performance did little to quell the concerns brought on by its loss to Penn State on Friday. Turgeon saw some positives — better rebounding and free throw shooting, for instance — but the stakes of each remaining game continue to increase and any lapses will only become more costly.
“We really care,” Turgeon said, describing the team’s frustration at times. “If we stopped acting that way, it means we quit. And this team has got a lot of fight left in it. We think we’ve still got a chance to make a run here.”