Ohio State Hopes to Stop Skid With Win at Maryland
It's record and ranking suggest otherwise, but the truth is there are more things Ohio State doesn't know entering a Tuesday night Big Ten game at No. 12 Maryland than things it does.
That's not typical of most 11-3 teams ranked No. 11 in the nation sitting down to dig into the meat of its conference schedule.
Such mysteries might apply to teams that haven't challenged themselves in the approach to league play, but that's certainly not true of OSU, which has wins over Cincinnati and Villanova at home, North Carolina on the road and Kentucky at a neutral site.
Consecutive losses to West Virginia in Cleveland and Wisconsin at home have buffed the shine off the Buckeyes' hot start, however, and has them slumming all the way down in a tie for next-to-last in the Big Ten as they enter Maryland's lair and a trip to 11-3 Indiana on Saturday.
OSU head coach Chris Holtmann isn't sure if:
- junior forward Kyle Young can play at Maryland or IU as he enters the second week since an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 29;
- freshman guard D.J. Carton can recapture the form that made him a force in the win over Kentucky after mammoth struggles the past two games;
- freshman forward E.J. Liddell can provide solid minutes as Young's replacement;
- sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. can provide reliable scoring in support of leading scorer Kaleb Wesson;
- OSU can reduce its problematic turnovers to slow Maryland's transition game;.
- senior Andre Wesson, or freshmen Alonzo Gaffney or Ibrahima Diallo, can soothe Young's possible absence on the glass by battling effectively against a lengthy Maryland front line.
The Terps are good enough to make good teams look bad, as they did Notre Dame and Marquette earlier in the year when beating both by 21 points.
But Maryland also lost at Penn State, which Ohio State hammered in Columbus.
But is this still that team -- the one that also routed Villanova and North Carolina and won handily against Kentucky -- or is Holtmann coaching a much different team now that its young roster has had its confidence wounded by consecutive losses.
"It's a valid question, but it's a moving target in a lot of ways," Holtmann said. "I think my point is, we don't really know how good we are until we get well into January.
"Obviously, teams change and grow. Assumptions...are made that are not always accurate. That's my point."
Liddell played like a man-eater at North Carolina, with 12 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
Carton made every big play down the stretch against UK, leading OSU with 15 points against one of the best backcourts in college basketball.
Then they combined for two points and five turnovers in the loss to Wisconsin and five points and seven turnovers in the loss to West Virginia.
"It's basketball," Ohio State point guard C.J. Walker said. "Not everything is going to be perfect. You have to be able to make adjustments. I feel like we have the team to do that.
"E.J. has to be able to step up in that situation and do the things that (Kyle Young) did or do his own thing. E.J. is a great player. It's about adjusting. You have to do that in basketball. Not everything is going to be scripted. Not everything is going to be perfect."
Holtmann said he never deluded himself into thinking his freshmen were beyond the capacity to play inconsistently, nor was he convinced Ohio State was quite ready to seamlessly carry the Top 5 ranking it held for the better part of a month.
"I really just assess us from day to day and how we're moving forward in the target areas where we need to improve," he said. "Beyond that, the wider scope of things, I'm not really concerned with right now."
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