Battle of Bigs Could Decide Ohio State at Maryland
It is a high-caliber match-up, with elite centers to prove it, Tuesday night when No. 5 Ohio State visits No. 15 Maryland.
The star power for both OSU (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) and the Terrapins (12-2) extends beyond their big men, of course, but the outcome will certainly tilt toward the winner of the individual matchup between Maryland's Jalen Smith and the Buckeyes' Kaleb Wesson.
Yes...Smith and Wesson.
Both are 6-10, multi-skilled, stretch fours more than they are classic, low-post, back-to-the-basket bangers, although Wesson was that before he lost 30-plus pounds in the off-season to better adapt to the skill set required of players his size in the NBA.
It's worked for team-leading averages of 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds from Wesson so far, while Smith leads the Terps with 9.9 rebounds and ranks second in scoring at 13.5 behind teammate Anthony Cowan (16.4).
Maryland appears to have shed its December doldrums post 21-point wins over Marquette and Notre Dame by rotating four guards around Smith, who's nevertheless unafraid to venture outside and shoot threes at a rate of 32%.
Wesson knocks down 43% of his long-range attempts, keying a big win over Penn State in late-December with four triples off pick-and-pops when left alone after screening.
Teams aren't giving him that shot any more and the Buckeyes are struggling.
They lost to West Virginia eight days ago when the Mountaineers denied Wesson on the perimeter and inside down the stretch.
Wisconsin did the same on Friday, holding him with one field goal attempt -- a desperation three-pointer -- in the last 5:55 when the Badgers overcame a four-point deficit.
"I wouldn't say they took me away," Wesson said. "We just went to different guys. I was a force during the game so much that they were collapsing and guys had to help off my other teammates. My teammates, I trust them to make shots, so I was looking for them."
Smith had 19 points and eight rebounds in only 17 minutes Saturday in a 75-59 rout of Indiana in which the Terps used their transition talents to compile a 30-point, second-half lead.
Maryland unleashed an 11-0 run in the first half and a 35-8 spurt in the second to overwhelm the Hoosiers, so Ohio State cannot feed that with the untimely turnovers that have occurred in their last two games.
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