Jan 22, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) shoots a free throw while Indiana Hoosier fans wave large fatheads to distract him at the foul line at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland basketball approaches the mid way point of their inaugural Big Ten season with a road game against Ohio State. Last season Maryland was routed by Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Columbus, but both teams are much different from a year ago. Thursday night’s game will feature two of the top freshmen in the Big Ten going head to head against each other for the only time this season. D’Angelo Russell and Melo Trimble are both having incredible freshman seasons and have played a large role in their teams success.
Ohio State enters the game at 5-3 and just one game back of 6-2 Maryland for second place in the conference. For as good of a season as Ohio State has had they lacked a marquee win until they beat #23 Indiana last Sunday. Beating Maryland will give them their second top fifty RPI win, which will help come Selection Sunday. As for the Terrapins, they have been road warriors all season, and winning at Value City Arena would add to a resume that includes a neutral site win over Iowa St, and true road wins at Oklahoma St and Michigan St.
The belief about Ohio State is that it is only D’Angelo Russell, but the Buckeyes have one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. Thad Matta’s squad is top three in the Big Ten in scoring, field goal percentage, and scoring margin. Nationally they are ranked sixteenth in scoring, thirteenth in assists per game, and third in field goal percentage. They are a fast pace team with 29.7 percent of their attempts coming in transition, and in the half court 70.3 percent of their attempts come less than thirty seconds into the possession. Early in the season, the Buckeyes were playing a 2-3 zone but have since transitioned back to man-to-man defense and their aggressive defense allows them to get into transition often.
Maryland’s last road game snowballed out of control in the second half when they allowed Indiana to play at a more comfortable fast pace tempo. The Terrapins will need to avoid that same fate if they want to pull off an important road win. If Ohio State is able to get into transition then it will be a long day for Maryland. Doing so will involve both Melo Trimble and Dez Wells making smart decisions with the ball, and not holding it for too long in a possession.
The keys for Maryland winning at Ohio State are:
1) Containing D’Angelo Russell
Doing this is much easier said than done as Russell is currently on a tear through the Big Ten. In his last four games he is averaging 25.8 points-per-game and 7.8 rebounds-per-game and even more impressive is his 56.1 percent shooting and 44.1 percent three point shooting. Everything runs through Russell and rightfully so considering how much he can do. On the season Russell has 298 field goal attempts and the next highest is Sam Thompson’s 172. Maryland has yet to play a guard of this caliber, which makes it tough to know how they will handle him.
At 6’5” 180 lbs. it makes sense for Maryland to use Wells and Jared Nickens to provide cover. Russell doesn’t draw many fouls, which is a concern with placing Wells on him. Maryland doesn’t want to lose Wells for extended time because of foul trouble. On the offensive end, Maryland should look to place Wells in the post against Russell. The best way to slow him down would be to get into foul trouble, and given the success that Wells has had in the post, he can make that happen while also creating opportunities for his teammates.
2) Getting Melo Going
The last two times Melo Trimble has played away from Xfinity Center he did not have a good game. Against Purdue, he played thirty-six minutes but only had one made field goal and one assist. Last week at Indiana, Trimble was unable to get to the line and finished with ten points, no rebounds, and one assist. It is no secret that Trimble is one of the most important Terrapins, and at Purdue they were able to survive a game that he struggled in but against Indiana the game fell apart for Maryland in part because of his struggles.
Trimble will likely see much of Shannon Scott on Thursday. Scott is an experienced player who has learned to play defense from a top coach and from former Ohio State guard, Aaron Craft. This could provide Trimble with problems especially getting to the free throw line, which is where he does a lot of damage. Trimble is still young and learning to play the point guard position at a high level, but this is another test for him to learn how to impact the game when his go to plays aren’t working.
3) Transition Defense
Earlier I mentioned how Ohio State pushes the tempo and likes to get out in transition. Maryland does a good job on transition defense and will be need to do a good job on Thursday for the full forty minutes. Maryland’s opponents are attempting 21.9 percent of their field goals in transition, but out of those attempts only 29.7 percent are coming at the rim. The Terrapins are doing a good job of getting back in transition and making sure that teams aren’t getting point blank shots against them.
Ohio State attempts 46.9 percent of their transition field goals at the rim. Maryland will need to make sure they are getting back quickly in transition and preventing opportunities at the rim without fouling. If Maryland can limit the turnovers and damage done off of them then they will have a great chance of winning the game.
Thursday night marks the beginning of a tough stretch for Maryland that includes a trip to Iowa and a home rematch against Indiana. At 6-2, Maryland is in a better position than many expected, but this four game stretch will determine if the Terrapins are a player for the Big Ten crown. They will have their hands full on Thursday night with another top offense. Maryland will need their defense to be on point and for their top three players (Trimble, Wells, and Jake Layman) to play well in order for them to have a chance at pulling out a road win.