The Maryland men’s basketball team came into Friday night’s game against Ohio State at Value City Arena leading the Big Ten in 3-point shooting and nearly at the bottom of the league in assists. That changed in a big way — and a good way — for the nation’s No. 19 team.
The Terps continued their hot shooting, especially in the first half, and showed their ability to find open shooters as well. The combination carried Maryland to a 75-61 victory, its seventh straight.
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. was the last starter for Maryland to score, but he wound up scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. After a slow start himself, sophomore center Bruno Fernando finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, his 10th double double of the season.
After winning just its first and last Big Ten road games last season, Maryland (16-3, 7-1) has won three straight after a two-point loss at Purdue in early December. Once ranked as high as No. 13, Ohio State (12-5, 2-4) has lost four straight overall.
Maryland continued its hot shooting, making 25 of 43 shots overall (58.1 percent), including 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point range. Also the Big Ten’s top free-throw shooting team, the Terps made 14 of 16 from the line.
Maryland hit 15 of 24 shots in the first half, including seven of 10 3-pointers, to take a 45-38 halftime lead. Just as importantly, the Terps had nine assists in the half, two more than they had during their win over Wisconsin on Monday, on one fewer basket.
The lead didn’t last, as Maryland committed three straight turnovers to start the second half and the Buckeyes cut their deficit to one and coach Mark Turgeon called timeout. Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) hit a 3-pointer to settle the Terps and quiet the crowd.
The crowd wasn’t quiet when star center Kaleb Wesson picked up two quick fouls early in the second half after getting just one in the second half. The third personal came with a little more than 17 minutes left and Wesson had to take a seat on the bench.
The Terps took advantage of the 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore’s absence, as Cowan drove and was fouled, making both free throws, and Fernando scored on a baseline jump hook as he was fouled by Wesson’s backup, 6-8, 205-pound sophomore Kyle Young, and made the free throw give Maryland 53-44 lead with 15:36 to go.
Leading by as many as 12, Maryland watched Ohio State cut the deficit in half twice, the second time after Wesson followed a Cowan 3-pointer with one of his own. But the Terps quickly built their lead back to double figures.
Maryland finished with 14 assists, double what it had in its 64-60 win over Wisconsin on Monday, including six from Cowan and four from Fernando. The Terps also did a good job on Wesson, who finished with 11 points. Senior guard C.J. Jackson led Ohio State with 15 points.
Ayala leaves game
Freshman guard Eric Ayala Jr. left the game with a little under 13 minutes left, falling hard to the court after blocking a shot. It appeared Ayala landed on his left hip, but he limped off with some help from Fernando and spent some time on a stationary bike behind the bench before taking a seat.
His status for Monday’s game at No. 6 Michigan State isn’t known.
A local reporter sitting at press row made the comment toward the end of the game that “Maryland is as good on a given night as Michigan or Michigan State.” The Terps will find out when they visit the Breslin Center, where they lost last season, 91-61, to face the No. 6 Spartans on Monday night.