Nearly five minutes into Tuesday night’s home game against No. 11 Ohio State and headed into the first media timeout, the Maryland men’s basketball team still hadn’t scored. While the Buckeyes had buried two early 3-point shots, they hadn’t buried the Terps and their hopes to beat their first Top 25 opponent this season.
It had to do with the defense Mark Turgeon’s team was playing. What carried over from Saturday’s rout of Indiana at Xfinity Center continued for most of what was certainly Maryland’s biggest game to date, helping turn another early deficit into another relatively easy victory.
With senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. shaking off his own sluggish start to score 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, and sophomore Jalen Smith coming through his matchup with Ohio State’s massive center, Kaleb Wesson, with 11 points and seven rebounds, the No. 12 Terps beat the Buckeyes, 67-55.
“I can say it now because we did, but I thought right before half that we blew the game, we’re up 28-20 with 3½ [minutes] to go and their best player [Wesson] was on the bench, it’s 28-22 at half,” Turgeon said. “I didn’t say that to the team. I said, ‘Hey we’re up six, we’ve been down most halves.'... Our defense was terrific."
The victory helped Maryland (13-2, 3-1) climb within a game of first-place and No. 8 Michigan State (12-3, 4-0) in the Big Ten — the Terps are tied with red-hot and surprising Rutgers — while the third straight loss and fourth in six games for Ohio State (11-4, 1-3) pushed the Buckeyes toward the bottom of the league standings.
“Every win is big, especially in the Big Ten, there aren’t going to be too many easy nights,” Cowan said.