After losing two games in a row for the first time this season, Maryland was in desperate need of a win on Saturday. The loss against Purdue last Saturday was certainly disappointing given the circumstances, but Tuesday’s loss at Penn State was even worse. Another loss at home against an average team like Ohio state would have been devastating to say the least.
Sporting their all gold uniforms, the Terps thrived off of their soldout home crowd and came out swinging. Five minutes into the game, Maryland had a 9-0 lead and by the eight minute mark, they took their first ten point lead and continued to build on it as the first half concluded.
The interesting thing was the fact that the scoring didn’t come from any one player in particular. Maryland led 45-31 at the half with 20 points coming from the bench. Despite their first half domination, the Terps were held in check by the Buckeyes early in the second half. Ohio State made a few significant runs before the ten minute mark and even cut the lead to just six at one point.
The game was beginning to feel eerily similar to the matchup against Purdue just one week ago. Last week the Terps had a double digit lead and were in complete control, but poor shot clock management and a lack of defense gave the game away. With Ohio State fighting back on multiple occasions, the usually rowdy Maryland crowd was uncomfortably quiet at times.
With two and half minutes to play, Ohio State already had two of their players fouled out and were not getting my favors from the refs. But a pair of back-to-back threes cut the Maryland lead to just five. Kevin Huerter momentarily got the crowd back into it with a deep three, but Ohio State responded immediately to bring it back to five point game.
With under a minute to go, the Terps showed much better poise than a week ago. Anthony Cowan took as much time off the clock as possible and sunk a good look from three. There may have been a sense of panic among the crowd but the Terps were able to get back to their late game confidence. With a more comfortable eight point lead, Maryland was able to put the game on ice at the free throw line and close out an 86-77 victory
To the Buckeyes’ credit, they were able to stay within striking distance and keep the game competitive despite having zero points from their bench players. As lopsided as it may have felt at times, Ohio State’s starting five putting up 77 points was an impressive feat. I thought that Maryland played well overall and even dominated at times, but to let a depleted OSU team get back in the game in crunch time is just unacceptable.
This win could save Maryland from falling out of the Top 25 but that is very much in question. A more commanding victory would have helped but at the end of the day this was a must win game and the Terps got it done. However, Maryland will play two of their toughest games of the season next week. These upcoming road games against Northwestern and Wisconsin will be huge in deciding the legitimacy of Maryland as we approach March.