The No. 7 Maryland Terrapins are hoping to avoid the upset bug that has overcome college basketball this weekend when they visit the No. 25 Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday. Maryland enters the game on a nine-game winning streak and with a two-game lead in the Big Ten over second-place Penn State. Ohio State is .500 in conference play, sitting ninth in the league standings.
These two teams played once already this season, with the Terrapins topping then-No. 11 Ohio State 67-55. Things have significantly turned since then, with the Buckeyes struggling to stay in the NCAA Tournament projections after getting up as high as the national top five earlier in the season.
The Buckeyes are 2.5-point favorites playing at home, with the over/under set at 132.5.
The Terrapins may have the top inside-outside duo in the Big Ten in senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore forward Jalen Smith. Cowan leads Maryland with 16.7 points per game, and he’s been clutch when the Terrapins need a hoop, as he’s hit 10-of-16 three-point attempts in the final three minutes of games this season, including three in a win at Michigan State last weekend.
Smith has been a force on both ends of the floor, especially during the current winning streak, in which he has a double-double in each of the nine straight victories. That’s the longest active streak in the nation and the longest streak for a player in consecutive wins since Xavier’s David West did it in 2003. He’s averaging 18.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks during that span.
But Maryland is more than a two-man show. Sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins averages 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, and when he’s hot, the Terrapins hit another level. Maryland is 13-1 when he hits multiple three-pointers in a game. Junior guard Darryl Morsell has been solid of late as well, averaging 8.5 points on the season and coming off a career-best seven-assist performance against Northwestern.
After an ugly stretch in which they dropped six of seven contests from Dec. 29 to Jan. 23, the Buckeyes have started to find themselves again, winning five of their last seven. For Ohio State to secure a postseason berth, it is going to need to keep up that pace and move up in the Big Ten standings over the next five games.
Junior center Kaleb Wesson is the main offensive weapon for coach Chris Holtmann, averaging 13.9 points and 9.3 rebounds this season. But he comes off a 10-point performance against Iowa in which he shot just 4-of-10 from the field, including 1-of-5 from three-point range. He needs to be a force in the paint, especially against the strong rebounding of Maryland.
Guard Duane Washington Jr. is scoring 10.8 points per game, including a team-best 43 three-pointers, while forward Andre Wesson has upped his scoring average to 10.0 points per game in conference play. Freshman guard D.J. Carton (10.4 points per game) has missed the last six games as he left the program to tend to his mental health. Carton returned to the university on Friday but isn’t expected to join the basketball team again for at least a little while.
Terrapins Keep Rolling
After dropping their first three road games in conference play, the Terrapins have reeled off four straight victories away from home. With Cowan leading the way, Maryland won’t be fazed by the home crowd in Columbus. Ohio State has won its last three home games, but it’s hard to see the Buckeyes being able to shut down the Terrapins for 40 minutes.
This one will be close for a while, but Cowan leads a late charge to help Maryland win. I’m taking the Terrapins +2.5.