Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, and four grandchildren.


Another frustrating night, and loss, as Maryland outmanned the Buckeyes and handed them their fourth consecutive Big Ten loss.

Columbus – It was down the stretch of the first half when Kyle Young did the best portrayal of what a basketball player wearing an Ohio State uniform must do for the team to have a shot at winning.

With 6 ½ minutes left, Young rose above the big bodies for a tip-in. Less than one minute later, he had another follow that was more athletic than the first.

He put his body in harm’s way in being called for a blocking foul with 4 ½ minutes left attempting to keep a Maryland player from sweeping to the basket.

Finally, Young, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, sneaked in a lay-up that got the Buckeyes to within five points.

In a way, he looked like a seaman first class trying to jam as many passengers into lifeboats before the inevitable.

But for the fourth straight game, Ohio State gave up height, length and gobs of athleticism in losing 75-61 before a crowd of 14,716 on Friday night at The Schott.

Maryland shot 58 percent (25-for-43) overall and 64.7 percent (11-for-17) from three-point range.

The Buckeyes made it that close by netting 18 points off turnovers, 14 on second chance opportunities and 20 off the bench.

“We’ll work extremely hard as coaches and see what we can do to put our guys in better position,’’ coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think it’s a challenge. It’s not for the faint of heart or weak-minded people. We’ve got a tough stretch here and we’ve got to find a way to dig our way out. We’ve all got to accept responsibility and try to do better and play better.’’

The truth of the matter, though, is that the Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4) are playing in a Big Ten that many media outlets are predicting will land as many as 10 teams in the NCAA tournament.

Another reality is that Ohio State very well might go 0-7 this month. The final three games in January are against Purdue, Nebraska and Michigan.

“We’re facing better, longer guys,’’ Holtmann said of the four-game losing streak.

At times, it appeared the Terps were daring the Buckeyes to shoot from distance.

“I think the book is out about how to guard us,’’ Holtmann said.

Maryland doubled down on Kaleb Wesson, limiting him to just 3 of 7 shooting from the field.

What the Terps did was double-team 6-9 Kaleb Wesson – at times even triple-teamed him – and took their chances by giving up the perimeter shots. He was 3-for-7 shooting in 32 minutes and Ohio State missed 20 of 26 three-pointers.

Maryland (16-3, 7-1) came in with stars in 6-10, 240-pound center Bruno Fernando of Angola, 6-10 forward Jalen Smith and 6-foot point guard Anthony Cowan. Cowan looks to be the Big Ten’s East Coast version of Michigan State’s future NBA lottery pick Cassius Winston.

And there was even more talent after that: Darryl Morsell, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala playing inside and outside at warp speed.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes manned the post with Kaleb Wesson and Young. That’s it.

Holtmann wasn’t hired as coach until June 2017, but somehow patched together a first recruiting class that ranked 27th nationally and sixth in the conference. Guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington have been remarkable for teenagers. Forwards Justin Ahrens and Jaedon LeDee are getting a few minutes here and there and appear to be a year away.

Ohio State’s version of Fernando, Smith and Cowan will arrive next season in guard D.J. Carton and forwards E.J. Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney. It has been rated the top class in the Big Ten and 10th nationally.

Until then, Holtmann will be working with a short deck.

What’s scary for the Buckeyes is that during this losing streak the players have said they have lacked focus and staying power.

“We were kind of just going through the motions,’’ senior captain and guard C.J. Jackson said. “We weren’t guarding with a purpose like we preach and the coaches preach every day in practice. We were just kind of there and they were in rhythm. When you give a team like that rhythm they are going to hit open shots.’’

Jackson was asked how that could happen.

“I’m not sure (how to answer that),’’ he said.

He also said: “I don’t think confidence should be an issue with anybody We’ve been playing basketball since forever.’’

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How daunting has it been going against teams that have so much talent?

“It’s kind of what we expected,’’ Jackson said. “When we signed the paper to come here we understood we were playing against the best night in and night out. We’re playing against teams that had the goal of playing in the NCAA tournament. They come in here prepared and if we don’t play our absolute best we’re going to get exposed.’’

The Buckeyes were close enough to the Terps to retain their scent midway through the second half.

Washington hit a three-pointer from the side to cut the deficit to 59-53 with 9:59 left. Another trey by Kaleb Wesson with 8:41 left kept the deficit at six.

But it was too much Cowan (20 points, four rebounds, six assists, three steals), Fernando (13 points, 15 rebounds, four assists) and Morsell and Wiggins (11 points each) to handle.

In short order, Cowan hit a basket, Wiggins dunked off a drive, Cowan hit a 17-footer and Smith had a dunk to give Maryland a 70-56 lead with 2:53 left.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon saluted Ohio State several times without being asked. He admitted to being a “nervous wreck’’ all day.

Veteran columnist Mark Znidar writes the Buckeyes for Press Pros

“They’re good,’’ he said. “They were ranked 14th in the country 10 days ago. Teams go through it. I think in the second half it just snowballed on them. Let’s be real. They had some bunnies that they didn’t make, and it was just our night. My kids really played well.’’

The Big Ten even scares the elite teams.

“It’s nuts what we’ve got ahead of us,’’ Turgeon said.

Next up for Maryland comes Michigan State.

Those expecting Holtmann to play Ahrens, LeDee and Musa Jallow as much or more as the Iowa game had to be disappointed. They combined for fewer than 10 minutes playing time.

There won’t be any quick fixes.

“Really, I think we just stay the course,’’ Holtmann said. “We’ll work extremely hard as coaches to try and put our guys in better position. But, really, we just stay the course.’’

The McKinley Funeral Home of Lucasville, Ohio, proudly supports Ohio State Buckeye basketball on Press Pros.