The scouting report for Maryland going into Thursday night’s game against Ohio State at Value City Arena was focused on stopping redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. There was probably not much on graduate transfer Andrew Dakich.
As much as Bates-Diop hurt the Terps after missing his first three shots, Dakich did a lot more damage in turning an early seven-point deficit into what became a 12-point lead at halftime and eventually a 91-69 victory for the Big Ten’s hottest — and most surprising — team.
Bates Diop finished with 26 points, including 15 in the second half, but it was Dakich’s career-high 11, all coming before halftime, that helped turn Maryland’s hot start into a long night for coach Mark Turgeon and his undermanned Terps.
To put Dakich’s performance into perspective, he had scored a total of 20 points in three years at Michigan, where he played three years as a walk-on. His previous high was 10 points against The Citadel last month. He hit three 3-pointers and four shots in all during a game-changing 22-2 run for Ohio State.
The Terps, who came into the game with only eight healthy scholarship players after redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley was ruled out with a concussion, also saw freshman center Bruno Fernando limited to 16 minutes because of illness.
“We don’t have a lot of depth. We’re starting guys that should be bench guys, and we’re playing guys that shouldn’t be playing right now, but that’s where we are, and we’ve got to get better," Turgeon said. “We didn’t compete hard enough to get better.”
The lack of depth and energy was the only thing Maryland was missing. After the Terps confused the Buckeyes early by switching defenses, their poor perimeter defense caught up with them. The Buckeyes finished 17-for-29 on 3-point shots, including 6-for-8 by Bates-Diop.
“They made a lot of shots. We can’t seem to guard anybody on the road all of a sudden,” Turgeon said. “We were limited on some things, but we didn’t compete the way we have to compete. That was the disappointing thing.
“We’re just kind of like, ‘Well, we’ve got some guys hurt so we're kind of feeling sorry for ourselves’ instead of competing the way we need to compete, especially on the defensive end. The scoring droughts are going to happen when you can’t make free throws or layups. A lot of that was their defense — they’ve got a lot of good players.”
Senior center Michal Cekovsky hit his first five shots and helped Maryland (14-5, 3-3) to a 22-15 lead. He finished with a career-high 18 points.
Sophomore guards Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr. each scored 12. Redshirt freshman forward Joshua Tomaic, getting extensive minutes with season-ending injuries to forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender, had a career-high 11.
The victory was the fifth straight without a loss to start the Big Ten for Ohio State (14-4, 5-0), which was picked to finish in the bottom third in the preseason. It looked early as if there might be a letdown after Sunday’s 16-point win over Michigan State. There was none.
Asked whether he thought the Terps could catch the Buckeyes having a bit of a letdown, Turgeon said: “We did. We had a nine-point lead [actually seven at 20-13 and 22-15], but they’re so talented and they’re very confident right that they erased that. We went from up [seven] to down eight in about three minutes.”
Fast start, slow fade
The game was reminiscent of last week’s 30-point defeat at then-No. 1 Michigan State, when Maryland started well, only to be overrun by hot-shooting Spartans. In that game, too, several players not on the pregame scouting report for their ability to hit 3-pointers.
Turgeon seemed more upset about what happened here than what transpired at the Breslin Center last week, simply because of the way his team didn’t compete.
“I thought we played pretty well at Michigan State, I really did," Turgeon said, repeating what he said after the most one-sided defeat in his seven years at Maryland. “Defensively we weren’t great — they made some unbelievable shots. Tonight I can’t say we played with the same effort that we did there. The energy wasn’t there.. It’s one night, we’ve been pretty good. We’ll see if we can figure it out by Monday [at Michigan].
But Huerter thought it was very much the same kind of game.
“We don’t need to sugarcoat it, we lost by 30 twice [or so it seemed], it sucks,” Huerter said. “We just need guys to be more consistent, bring it every single game, whether it’s on the road or at home. We don’t bring the same energy it seems when we’re on the road right now. The last two games have been a pretty good indicator of that.”
Fernando under the weather
Turgeon confirmed after the game that Fernando, who was coming off being named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, has been sick for a few days. Turgeon said he shortened practice Wednesday because the two big men were sick, and canceled Thursday’s shootaround to give the team extra rest.
Asked about Fernando, who finished with just two points and three rebounds, Turgeon said: “He gave an effort. He’s on antibiotics. Ceko [Michal Cekovsky] is on antibiotics. I’m on antibiotics. We’re an absolute mess right now.”
Not defending the 3
In Maryland’s past three games, opponents shot 44-for-78 on 3-point attempts. Huerter said it was not only a matter of players who normally don’t take 3-pointers, such as Michigan State’s Kenny Goins, who made the first two of his career, and those who don’t take a lot, such as Dakich, who hit three of four.
“We’ve just got to play the ball tougher,” Huerter said. “Bates-Diop had too many catch-and-shoots, I’ve got to make him put the ball on the floor. It’s just making people uncomfortable. A lot of 3s are contestable, a lot of them are in rhythm. Guys are too good at this level to give them rhythm 3s. I guess follow the scouting report a little bit better. Any team shoots this well against you makes it tough to win.”
MARYLAND (14-5): Fernando 1-2 0-0 2, Cekovsky 7-12 4-5 18, Morsell 0-7 4-8 4, Huerter 4-10 0-0 12, Cowan 3-13 3-4 12, Tomaic 3-4 4-7 11, Obi 1-2 0-0 2, Valmon 0-1 0-0 0, Mona 1-1 2-2 4, Nickens 2-8 0-0 4. Totals 22-60 17-26 69.
OHIO ST. (14-4): Tate 4-8 4-5 13, K.Wesson 3-5 2-3 8, Bates-Diop 10-15 0-0 26, Williams 3-6 0-0 8, C.Jackson 4-9 4-4 14, Young 0-0 0-0 0, A.Wesson 1-4 0-0 3, Potter 2-2 0-0 5, Dakich 4-5 0-0 11, Lane 1-1 0-0 3, Jallow 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 32-57 10-12 91.
Halftime—Ohio St. 44-32. 3-point-goals—Maryland 8-22 (Huerter 4-6, Cowan 3-6, Tomaic 1-2, Valmon 0-1, Cekovsky 0-1, Morsell 0-2, Nickens 0-4), Ohio St. 17-29 (Bates-Diop 6-8, Dakich 3-4, Williams 2-3, C.Jackson 2-5, Potter 1-1, Lane 1-1, Tate 1-2, A.Wesson 1-4, Jallow 0-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Maryland 34 (Morsell 8), Ohio St. 31 (Bates-Diop 8). Assists—Maryland 12 (Cowan 5), Ohio St. 25 (C.Jackson 6). Total fouls—Maryland 12, Ohio St. 18.