One of these days, Maryland will run the fast break to perfection, show a precise shooting eye from the outside and score a whole bunch of points.
Until that time, the Terrapins will continue to rely upon their defense to win. And that’s just fine with coach Mark Turgeon, who has no problem waiting for Maryland to perform efficiently on both ends of the court.
Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 20 points, and the 12th-ranked Terrapins used an unyielding defensive performance to defeat No. 11 Ohio State 67-55 Tuesday night and remain unbeaten at home.
Jalen Smith had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Terrapins (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten), who have won three straight. Maryland went up by 10 on a 3-pointer by Cowan with 12:58 left and cruised to the finish.
“We won because our defense was outstanding,” Turgeon said. “I’m encouraged because I don’t think we’re playing great yet. But we beat a really, really good team that I think can win a national championship if things go the right way for them in March.”
On this night, Ohio State (11-4, 1-3) looked nothing like a contender. The Buckeyes shot a miserable 31%, went 5 for 27 from 3-point range and committed 14 turnovers.
“Their length provides, obviously, a lot of problems. And it’s not just the length inside,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Mark does a really good job, good discipline, they don’t foul. I’ve always felt like Mark’s teams are really smart in how they defend you.”
The Terps didn’t score a point in the opening six minutes and had only 28 points at halftime, but it didn’t matter because their defense was so darn good.
“We have some guys who aren’t playing up to their ability offensively, but they’re really doing some great things defensively for us,” Turgeon said. “So we’re hanging our hat on that. Hopefully we can just continue to grow offensively as the season goes on.”
Maryland led 31-29 before Cowan made a free throw and a shot from well beyond the arc for a 41-31 advantage. The margin swelled to 12 points on a breakaway dunk by Aaron Wiggins with 8:49 remaining.
The clincher came on a follow-dunk by Wiggins for a 59-50 lead with 2:54 to go, sending the Terrapins on their way to a 10-0 record at home..
Both teams were ranked third in the nation at different times last month before going through a poor stretch. The Buckeyes came in with three losses in their last five games, including two straight. Maryland’s descent in the poll was a result of successive defeats on the road against Penn State and Seton Hall.
The Terrapins regrouped with three consecutive wins at home, including this one against an Ohio State team that has struggled to score during its current slide. The Buckeyes reached the 70-point mark in 11 straight games before getting 59 against West Virginia and 57 last week at home against Wisconsin.
“You hear guys talking about getting their swagger back,” Holtmann said. “You don’t get it back on game day. You just don’t. You get it back every day in practice. It’s a hard thing for a young group to understand.”
Kaleb Wesson scored 15 for Ohio State, and Andre Wesson and D.J. Carton had 14 apiece. Luther Muhammad went 0 for 6 from the floor, Duane Washington Jr. finished 2 for 11, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
Darryl Morsell scored 10 points for Maryland, but it was his defense that made the difference.
“Last year in the NCAA Tournament, the final game, Virginia and Texas Tech were the two best defensive teams. So we always harp on guarding,” Morsell said. “Even when our offense isn’t clicking. Just guard. And it will eventually come around. That’s what happened tonight.”
Cowan added: “We work a lot on defense in practice, and it showed.”
The Terrapins committed 11 turnovers in the first half and missed eight of nine attempts from within the arc but were 7 for 11 on 3-point tries to forge a six-point lead at the break.
Maryland trailed 8-0 before Eric Alaya accounted for half the points in a 12-3 surge that gave the Terrapins their first lead.
The Buckeyes played without 6-foot-8 junior forward Kyle Young, who missed a second straight game since having his appendix removed. Young ranks fourth on the team with 8.3 points per game and second in rebounding with 6.8.
Ohio State: Since opening the season with nine straight wins, the Buckeyes have endured in a free fall in the AP poll. This didn’t help.
Maryland: The Terrapins just might work their way back into the Top 10 if they can sustain the momentum created by this victory.
Ohio State faces Indiana on the road Saturday. The Buckeyes have won four straight in the series, the last three by a combined nine points.
Maryland plays four of its next five games on the road, beginning Friday night at Iowa.