As he sat behind the microphone in the media interview room at Value City Arena on Thursday night, it wasn’t difficult to tell that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon felt as bad as his team had just played for most of its 91-69 loss to Ohio State.
Turgeon had been battling a bad cold for more than a week, but the performance of the undermanned Terps after the first 10 minutes against the Buckeyes did little to make him forget how rotten he has been feeling.
Asked toward the end of the postgame interview what he could do to get more out of his team after its second blowout loss in eight days, Turgeon said, “I don’t know. If I knew, I wouldn’t have lost by 22 tonight.”
“We’ve got to get our energy level up,” Turgeon said. “We were concerned with Dion [Wiley] out and the two big guys [Michal Cekovsky and Bruno Fernando] sick, we had to go light at practice [Wednesday] and we didn’t do a shootaround today. We just wanted to rest guys and get them ready. Maybe that’s not the thing to do with this team. We'll live and learn and hopefully compete a little better on Monday.”
Maryland (14-5, 3-3 Big Ten) will go back on the road Monday to face Michigan in Ann Arbor.
After getting crushed by 30 points at then-No. 1 Michigan State on Jan. 4, and before losing Wiley to a concussion during the second half of Sunday’s 18-point home win over Iowa, the Terps figured they would challenge the Buckeyes with eight healthy scholarship players.
By the time they got to their hotel Wednesday, that number was down to five with Wiley kept in College Park, and both Cekovsky and Fernando battling flu-like symptoms. While Cekovsky helped Maryland by hitting his first five shots en route to a career-high 18 points, Fernando was a virtual no-show.
In 16 minutes, including just five in the second half, the 6-foot-10 Angolan who had been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday — for his first double double on Jan. 2 aganst Penn State and a careeer-high 21 points against Iowa — scored just two points and pulled down three rebounds.
Two minutes after Fernando scored his only basket on a dunk early in the second half, Turgeon pulled him and didn’t put him back in.
“Bruno’s sick. He gave an effort,” Turgeon said. “Ceko’s on antibiotics. I’m on antibiotics, Bruno’s on antibiotics. We’re a mess. We’re an absolute mess right now. Hopefully by Monday, Dion’s back, the two big guys are healthy.
“Ceko was sick before the game; I thought he gave great effort. Bruno tried. You know Bruno plays with energy — he had no energy tonight and we missed that. So we sat him out the last 15 minutes.”
It was not just the fact that the Terps only had five healthy scholarship players aside from the two under-the-weather big men.
Despite pulling down a team-high eight rebounds, freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) missed all seven shots he tried and half of eight free-throw attempts in a game-high 37 minutes. Graduate transfer Sean Obi didn’t have a rebound in nine minutes, but had an assist and a steal and scored one basket.
After hitting its first four shots and nine of its first 15 shots — including four of its first five 3-pointers — Maryland finished 22-for-60 overall and 8-for-22 on 3-pointers. Maryland’s bench was a combined 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, including 0-for-4 by senior guard Jared Nickens.
Conversely, after the Buckeyes missed seven of their first 10 shots, including the first three attempts by redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State finished 32-for-57 overall and 17-for-29 on 3-pointers. It came a week after Michigan State shot 32-for-56, including 16-for-28 on 3s, against Maryland.
Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, wound up 10-for-15 overall and 6-for-8 on 3-pointers for a game-high 26 points. Former Michigan walk-on and graduate transfer Andrew Dakich, who had 22 total points in three years as a Wolverine, scored a career-high 11, all in the first half.
“I want to give Maryland a lot of credit,” first-year Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought they came out with a terrific game plan and they came out kind of ready to shrink the floor on us and take way some options.
“They really came out basically saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to roll with [Anthony] Cowan and [Kevin] Huerter, and we expected some of that. I thought they were way more physical and tougher than we were in the first 10 minutes, but our guys responded.”
After Huerter hit a quick pair of 3-pointers and fed Cekovsky for a dunk, and after Cowan fed Huerter for his first two shots and then hit a pair of 3-pointers himself, the Buckeyes clamped down on Maryland’s top two scorers.
Each finished with 12 points, combining to shoot 7-for-23 overall, all of their made field goals being 3-pointers. After Cekovsky’s hot start, the Terps went away from getting the 7-1 senior the ball, settling for outside shots.
Asked what caused Maryland to go from being up by seven twice early to down by 12 at halftime and eventually trail by as many as 28 in the second half, Cekovsky said, “It was definitely more [a lack of] effort than finding excuses that we are sick or something. We gave them open looks. We didn't follow the plan. They got hot and we gave them [openings] to make shots on us.”
Huerter refused to use the lack of depth as an excuse.
“We’ve got enough guys here to win, even with the people we lost,” Huerter said. “We still have people in the locker room that can win these games. We’ve just got to figure it out on the defensive end. Teams make runs, you expect them to make runs, especially on their home court.
“The only way to stop the bleeding is not by trying to make shots. It seems like when we’re playing well, we make a lot of shots, but we never really play defense. We’ve got to start playing defense.”