The Maryland men’s basketball team (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) will be seeking to keep its perfect home record in tack on Tuesday evening when Ohio State marches into the Xfinity Center in what may be the biggest game for the Terps this season.
The Terps moved up to the No. 12 spot in the latest AP Poll after defeating Indiana 75-59 on Jan. 4. Maryland big man Jalen Smith had one of his better games, delivering 19 points (6-10 FG), eight rebounds and a pair of three pointers.
Smith will have his hands full against the Buckeyes, as he will be matched up with 6-foot-9 forward Kaleb Wesson, who is averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“He’s a dominant post player and it’s hard to stop him because of his size,” Smith said. “He has slimmed down in size, which has enhanced his game.”
Wesson is coming off a strong performance in Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin on Jan. 3 where he registered 22 points and 13 rebounds. Wesson has recorded six double-doubles whereas Smith has eight.
Despite Smith’s eye popping weight gain over the summer, Wesson still holds a size advantage, listing at 270 pounds.
“He’s playing at a high level and he gives [Ohio State] the chance to win a national championship,” Terps’ Coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s a dominant of a player and there’s not many like him in college basketball.”
With Fernando in the NBA, freshman center Chol Marial slowly getting back to full strength and the Mitchell twins transferring, Smith has spent the majority of the season playing the center position even though Turgeon’s initial goal for the 6-foot-10 sophomore was to play forward.
“A position is a position,” Smith said. “I’m not the biggest [center], but I’m always going to put up a fight.”
Smith has grown accustomed to the role that he was forced into, averaging 13 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Smith has showed signs of being a strong rim protector, averaging 2.3 blocks per game.
Known for being a quiet and laid back player, Turgeon continues to urge Smith to step up not only as a defender, but as a leader on the team.
“Jalen is a reluctant superstar at times,” Turgeon said. “We want him to be more consistent and comfortable to be a little more aggressive.”