COLLEGE PARK, Md. — His eyes reddened a bit, D.J. Carton stood in the public hallway that leads to the visitors’ locker room at the Xfinity Center.
Moments earlier, No. 11 Ohio State had taken a third straight loss. This time, in a 67-55 defeat to No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday night, the Buckeyes were limited to 31.3% shooting from the field buoyed by a 5-of-27 effort (18.5 percent) from three-point range.
Three straight losses. Three straight games in which Ohio State (11-4, 1-3 Big Ten), an offensive juggernaut for the first two months of the season, had been held below 60 points. Carton issued a plea.
"We’ve got to have somebody step up on this offensive end with confidence and not demand the ball, but take lead of this team," he said as senior Andre Wesson, standing to his left, nodded. "The shots were there all night. They just didn’t go down."
The Buckeyes took two blows before taking the court. Although he had lobbied to play, junior Kyle Young missed his second straight game after undergoing an appendectomy Dec. 29, and Carton made his first career start in relief of junior guard CJ Walker, who was officially listed as questionable because of illness.
With the freshman at the point, the Buckeyes got out to a 7-0 lead and forced the Terrapins (13-2, 3-1) into seven straight empty possessions until Eric Ayala made a free throw with 14:33 left for their first point.
Ohio State then allowed points on four of its next six times on defense, including two three-pointers, setting a tone for the rest of the half. At the break, a Maryland team that had been shooting only 28.2 percent from three-point range in Big Ten play had knocked down 7 of 11 attempts (63.6%) against an Ohio State defense that had been allowing teams to shoot 29.8%.
It’s why, in spite of allowing just one two-point field goal during the first half, Ohio State trailed 28-22. Maryland’s deep shooting cooled from there, but Ohio State’s offense was never able to heat up enough to take advantage. Maryland kept it to at least a three-possession advantage for the final 14:50.
"Their length provides a lot of problems," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I thought our guys fought, but overall not enough. We did not make shots."
After going scoreless in his last game and scoring only three points in the game before that, Carton finished with 14 points in 29 minutes. Walker added three points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
With Young out, Andre Wesson took on some of the junior’s intangibles and affected the game at both ends on the boards. The Buckeyes had some second-half success posting him on the block, but not enough to mount a comeback.
"I was just a senior out there trying to win," he said. "I don’t want to lose three in a row. Just trying to do what I can to help our team."