The Maryland Terrapins went undefeated in Big Ten play last season on their way to winning the Conference. In College Park today, they celebrated the 2006 Maryland team that beat Duke in overtime to capture the National title. It’s officially been 10 years since Kristi Tolliver, Marissa Coleman and company hoisted the trophy. The opponent on such an occasion was the Ohio State Buckeyes, they had an opportunity to soil the celebration and did so with an 80-71 victory in College Park’s Xfinity Center. Handing the Terps their first loss in Conference play in nearly two years, how’d they do it? Kelsey Mitchell led the way with 28 points as the Buckeyes drew on experiences from tough opponents early in the year to earn an impressive road victory against the fifth ranked team in the country.
Maryland didn’t want to use “fatigue as an excuse” in the words of Coach Brenda Frese, but it was evident that there was something a bit off with the Terps from the start. Both teams played an extremely sloppy first half, with brief stretches of good play.
Ohio State fell behind early, going down by eight at one point. The Terps chose to utilize a 2-3 zone on defense, most likely in the hopes of using their length and size to contest those Buckeye jump shots. In theory, that would have been great. In reality Maryland gave up several great looks from beyond the arc, only the highest scoring backcourt in the country in Mitchell and Ameryst Alston dangerous jump shots weren’t calibrated properly. The duo went a combined 4-of-13 from the great beyond, most of which were very clean looks.
When playing Maryland, it’s been interesting to see how opponents choose to attack them from a defensive stand point. Uconn played nearly all man-to-man with the intention of taking Shatori Walker-Kimbrough out of the game, trying to limit her. Ohio State decided to take Brionna Jones away, she’s been the constant for the Terps on that side of the ball all year. With her being taken out of the equation, the Buckeyes really mucked up the Maryland offense. There several shot clock violations and many, many turnovers. Ohio State forced 20 Maryland turnovers, which really limited the amount of transition opportunities that the Terps typically capitalize on. Maryland loves to use the long outlet pass to get easy points in transition off of misses, the Buckeyes did a great job of contesting and often deflecting those passes that the Terps love.
The first half ended with Maryland holding a three point lead, then the game changed. Mitchell got going and the Buckeyes took off, the super sophomore was causing all types of trouble for Maryland. The Terps seem to be over-helping in their zone and they got exposed for it, there were several back door cuts that were uncontested as well cuts down the lane. The back side of the zone was fully compromised and they never really recovered and corrected it.
Brene Moseley and Mitchell got into a great match of trading baskets for a bit early in the quarter. Moseley had a couple of great iso-situations where showed off different variations of her fantastic cross over. She abused Cait Craft on one possession right above the top right block, it was an uber quick right-to-left step-back combo that wobbled Craft a bit. Brene calmly rose and sank the midrange jump shot. The senior had a big game off the bench, going for 20 points and 10 assists.
On the floor, meanwhile, Moseley and Mitchell going back and fourth. #Terps hold a one-point lead with about four minutes left in the frame
— Kyle Stackpole (@kylefstackpole) January 2, 2016
Without Brionna Jones as a viable option in the paint, the Terrapins attack was hampered mightily. Malina Howard came through scoring a key five points that kept the Terps afloat during a Buckeye run. Still, it was just too much Kelsey Mitchell. The soph started to get extremely comfortable, including a highlight worthy no-look pass to a cutting Alexa Hart. The Buckeyes lost Cooper due to foul trouble, she fouled out midway through the quarter and things became a little easier to get the ball into Jones.
The Terps had a chance to swing things their way late, but their struggles at the foul line loomed large. They missed six during the game, nearly all of which came at extremely critical moments. The normally sound Moseley three herself, she wasn’t alone though. There was a possession late in the fourth that epitomized the kind of day the Terps were having. They missed a three, got the rebound and repeated that same process nearly four times. It felt as if they were searching for the home run ball, versus being patient batters. It could have been due to fatigue, but as Coach stated that’s not really an excuse. Still, it warrants some thinking as Maryland missed 13 shots from deep for the game.
At one point they cut the lead to three, but again Mitchell and company responded. The foul game was played, Ohio State hit just enough down the stretch to end the game with a nine point lead. It was a horrible shooting display from the Buckeyes, which made the outcome that much more impressive. SWK finished with 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting, the Junior guard is truly a leader. After the game she took credit for the loss, saying that she “needs to play better” and “this one is on me”. It’s very big of her to say those things, but it was more than just her that was a bit off. Still, it’s just one loss. The Terps have only played two conference games, there’s many more to go. What’s important is that they learn from it, as Coach Frese said “the game humbles you” and she’s right.