COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Undermanned and projected to be overmatched, Ohio State took to the court at No. 24 Maryland’s Xfinity Center as a Sam Tinnesz song blared.
“This is how legends are made,” it went, and the Buckeyes nodded their heads as senior walk-on Joey Lane led them onto the court.
It nearly became a prophecy. Down a key player and facing one of the nation’s top defensive teams, Ohio State gave the Terrapins a serious challenge but came up short in a 72-62 loss Saturday afternoon.
With C.J. Jackson out because of a shoulder injury, the Buckeyes (17-10, 7-9 Big Ten) were headed for a blowout and trailing by 16 near the midpoint of the second half before making things interesting.
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“I thought we showed a lot of grit, especially in the second half when we got it to a one-possession game,” graduate transfer guard Keyshawn Woods said. “We stayed together as a team and got it down to one possession. We’ve got to get it from there next game.”
After Bruno Fernando’s jumper made it 52-36 with 11:12 left, freshman Duane Washington broke Ohio State’s 2-of-14 shooting slump with a running, right-handed layup to stem the tide and start a surge.
The Buckeyes made seven of their next nine shots and fashioned a 19-5 run that pulled them within two points. The final basket came on a three-pointer from freshman Justin Ahrens, making the first start of his career, with 5:27 to play.
On the next possession, Ahrens closed out too hard on Serrel Smith Jr.’s three-point attempt and knocked him to the ground. The shot didn’t fall but the foul was whistled, and he hit all three free throws to push it back to a two-possession game. Ohio State got no closer.
Without Jackson, their second-leading scorer, and with leading scorer Kaleb Wesson finishing 3 of 12 from the field, the Buckeyes scratched out 62 points, their second-highest total in the last five games, against the Big Ten’s third-stingiest defense. During the 19-5 run, five players had at least one of Ohio State’s seven field goals.
“I was pleased with their fight, and on a night where you don’t have C.J., and Kaleb’s maybe struggling scoring, for us to score 62 points is encouraging,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “We just couldn’t get enough stops.”
Washington led the Buckeyes with 15 points. Junior Andre Wesson added 13, two of which came on the first reverse dunk he said he’s had since playing for Westerville South.
The cold start to the second half doomed the Buckeyes. Maryland (21-7, 12-5) led 33-28 at the half, and after the teams traded three-pointers when play resumed, Holtmann said Ohio State let some missed shots bleed over to its defense as Maryland scored 14 straight points while the Buckeyes went scoreless for 5:35.
It was too much, but the Buckeyes kept fighting.
“I liked the fight of our guys, for sure, but we’ve got to keep fighting, keep working, keep growing,” Holtmann said.