COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For those still getting to know Justin Ahrens, the Ohio State freshman offered a 21-word primer Friday afternoon.
“If you guys don’t know me yet, I’m as confident as ever,” he said inside the practice gym at Value City Arena. “Any shot I take, I think it’s going in.”
One day later and 400 miles away at Maryland, he backed up those words. Ahrens earned his first start, played a career-high 27 minutes and went 3 of 5 from three-point range in scoring nine points to help spark a second-half comeback for the Buckeyes in a 72-62 loss to the Terrapins.
Entering the game, Ahrens had made only four three-pointers in 11 Big Ten appearances. Against the Terrapins, two of his threes came during a 19-5 second-half run for Ohio State, the second of which made it 57-55 with 5:27 to play.
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He hit one more, a fadeaway three from the right corner with 2:33 to play that pulled the Buckeyes back within six and had Ahrens shushing the crowd as his teammates celebrated.
On an afternoon when the Buckeyes needed multiple players to compensate for the absence of an injured C.J. Jackson, Ahrens did his part on both ends of the court.
“He is good at top-of-the-key situations, but you can’t plan on him making those kind of plays all the time,” coach Chris Holtmann said of the fadeaway three. “I thought his (defensive) activity was the most impactful thing. The biggest thing right now is Justin is consumed with the team playing well. When you’re consumed with the team playing well, usually good things happen.”
Three days prior at home against Northwestern, Ahrens replaced sophomore Musa Jallow to start the second half and finished with four points in seven second-half minutes. That helped earn him the start against the Terrapins.
Ahrens had scored 29 points this season, topping out with six in a pair of games. He added four rebounds and two steals and, in a 10-point loss, had a team-best plus-10 individual rating.
“He deserved that,” graduate transfer guard Keyshawn Woods said. “He’s been working hard all season and now, everybody got to see what we see on a daily basis. I’m really happy for him.”