Ohio State's Muhammad Makes Good on Coach's Prediction

Bruce Hooley

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann got the menu wrong, but he certainly got the message right at a recent lunch with sophomore guard Luther Muhammad.

We had lunch a couple weeks ago," Holtmann said. "I realized he's the only player on our team that doesn't like...wings."

Muhammad, though, must have found his coach's prediction a bit more appetizing.

"I remember saying to him, 'Hey, Lu, there's going to be a game where you're going to make a few threes,'....It was a after a frustrating game where I don't think he scored at all. 'There's going to be a game where if you keep working and stick with the process, you're going to be the difference. Your shot-making is the difference."

Muhammad rewarded Holtmann's confidence Sunday with a season high 22 points and also held Maryland's leading scorer, Anthony Cowan, to just one field goal in the No. 25 Buckeyes' 79-72 upset of the seventh-ranked Terrapins at Value City Arena.

Muhammad had made seven three-point field goals over his last four games after making just 5-of-30 in his previous nine.

He hit triples in the first half and another early in the second to help OSU build and then expand a 40-33 halftime lead.

"I've just (been) staying with it," Muhammad said. "It's continuing to work hard, stay in the gym. I have great teammates and a great coaching staff that encourages me and has faith in me."

OSU's seven-point halftime doubled in the first two minutes of the second half, giving the Buckeyes (18-9, 9-8) just enough cushion to withstand a Maryland rally to as close as four points late.

The loss ended a nine-game Terps (22-5, 12-4) winning streak and a like number of consecutive double-doubles from 6-10 Jalen Smith, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon took issue with the physical defense OSU's Kaleb Wesson employed to limit Smith.

"He was allowed to be the bully," Turgeon said of Wesson, who scored 15 points and had nine boards. "He stuck his forearm right in (Smith's) chest twice. I guess you're allowed to do that in this building."

Officials didn't allow Cowan to skate after complaining about a no-call following his only field goal, a layup with 3:54 left that brought Maryland to 64-59.

Replays showed him kick toward Wesson's head and miss, but the reaction nevertheless drew an unsportsmanlike technical foul that counted as Cowan's fifth and sent him to the sidelines.

Given the national-television exposure on CBS on a Sunday afternoon, it won't be shocking if the Big Ten suspends Cowan a game or more, even though he did not make contact with Wesson.

Turgeon was already lobbying hard to move on after the loss:

"So here's what happened, OK? Anthony went in and shot a layup. Somehow he ends up on the ground. I don't think he ended up there by himself. Right? So, no call. We're a little frustrated.

"I know the angle they showed makes it look like Anthony is trying to kick Kaleb. He's looking right at the referee and saying, 'Call the foul.' He was frustrated. He shouldn't have done it. He did it. Referee said they had to call it because it looked like intent, kicking at the head. Anthony's not kicking at the head.

"It looks like intent, kicking at him, but Anthony is not kicking at him. He's not kicking a 7-foot, 250-pound guy. He was looking right at the ref when he did it. We can take all of that out of the way that he was trying to kick the player, because he wasn't. All right. he was frustrated because he got tackled on a layup and there wasn't a call."

Holtmann seemed not to care for Turgeon's description of Wesson as a bully on Smith.

"He was described as being a bully?," Holtmann said, before being informed Turgeon made that assessment. ""Oh. Um, Mark said that? To each his own. His opinion can be his opinion. I thought Kaleb was physical well within the rules. And played hard and played tough and played physical.

"Listen, that kid has gotten pushed and shoved and the number of times people have flopped on him throughout this year...he played well within the rules as he should have today. Kudos to him for that, because that can be frustrating."

OSU preserved the win with 17-of-18 free throw shooting in the second half, helping to feed 12-point games from Andre Wesson and C.J. Walker and 13 off the bench from Duane Washington.

The Buckeyes lost junior forward Kyle Young with just over four minutes left in the first half when he suffered a high-ankle sprain in a rebound scrum.

OSU played with just six players in the second half, with Andre Wesson playing all 40 minutes and Kaleb 37 in the team's best Big Ten victory this season.

Ohio State now owns four Top Ten wins, having beaten (at the time) No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 10 Villanova.

The Buckeyes (18-8, 8-8) will attempt to get over .500 in the Big Ten for the first time this season in a 9 p.m. Thursday game at Nebraska.

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