Even though Maryland started the season with 12 straight victories, coach Brenda Frese often feels compelled to remind everyone that the Terrapins' starting five features two freshmen and no seniors.
That youthful combination still hasn't reached its full potential, as evidenced Saturday when No. 4 Maryland needed a late push to get past Ohio State 75-68. Coming off an upset loss to Rutgers, the Terrapins (13-1, 2-1 Big Ten ) never really got into a groove against the retooled Buckeyes (4-8, 0-3).
"With the blend of our team, I feel like we're still trying to learn our strengths and our weaknesses," Frese said. "We're continuing to just get better, and learn and grow from this."
Kaila Charles scored 24 points and Stephanie Jones added 16 for Maryland. The Terps trailed 62-61 with 5:25 left, went ahead 70-66 on a 3-pointer by Taylor Mikesell with 3:04 to go and held on.
"We showed a lot about our character and poise down the stretch," Frese said. "We had to get stops on the defensive end, and we able to step up and force turnovers."
Ohio State made only one basket over the final four minutes while being outscored 9-3.
"I thought both teams had good opportunities at the end of the game," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "To their credit, they made some shots and we missed them."
It was the 499th career victory for Friese, who's 442-120 with the Terrapins after going 35-22 at Ball State and 22-8 at Minnesota.
Though Maryland and Ohio State played in the 2018 Big Ten title game, this Buckeyes squad bears no similarity to the one that captured the conference championship and finished 28-7.
McGuff had to replace all five starters and welcomed eight new players, including six with undergraduate degrees. The new mix may ultimately prove successful, but at the juncture Ohio State has lost five straight and sits alone in the conference cellar.
"I told them, 'I'm the last person ever to be into moral victories, but I do believe in the process,'" McGuff said. "We committed to a process today where we prepared well and competed against a great Maryland team. I'm proud of that, and if we continue to do that in practice and the upcoming games, the results will follow."
Freshman Dorka Juhasz, a 6-foot-4 forward from Hungary, led the Buckeyes with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Ohio State went 4 for 5 to open the game and grabbed a 10-5 lead. Although Maryland shot just 40 percent in the first quarter, Sarah Myers drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 20-19 lead.
The Buckeyes scored the first eight points of the second quarter, but the Terrapins used runs of 7-0 and 9-3 to move in front 43-36 at halftime.
Maryland missed 16 of 20 field goal attempts in the third quarter while being outscored 22-14.
The Terrapins bounced back, and the hope is that victories will be easier to come by in the future.
"I would definitely say we're still learning," Mikesell said. "Every day we're trying to get better at something, because you can't stay the same in this league."
If the Terrapins are to be successful this season, Charles and Jones, both juniors, must lead the way.
"They've been through the wars," Frese said. "The confidence level, the trust level you have in your vets, they want the responsibility. That's what vets should do — down the stretch, you put your team on your back."
Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked nothing like a rebuilding team, giving the fourth-ranked squad in the country all it could handle. Whether this represents a breakthrough — or was merely one good performance in a rebuilding season — will soon become apparent.
Maryland: The Terps wrapped up a lackluster week with a narrow victory that likely did nothing to enhance their stature among the pollsters.
Ohio State: Hosts Indiana on Thursday. The Hoosiers and Rutgers are the only teams unbeaten in Big Ten play.
Maryland: Friese vies for her 500th career victory at Nebraska on Tuesday night.