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D’Angelo Russell wasn’t the only freshman to step forward for Ohio State Thursday night

Morehead State v Ohio State

Morehead State v Ohio State

Kirk Irwin

Thursday’s matchup between No. 16 Maryland and Ohio State was billed by many as a showdown between freshman guards Melo Trimble and D’Angelo Russell and rightfully so, as both have been stars for their respective teams this season. The play of those two had a major impact on the game, with Trimble struggling mightily (as did his teammates) and Russell countering with 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

The Buckeyes won 80-56, with Maryland shooting just 30.5% from the field and Trimble accounting for just three points (0-for-8 FG) and one assist. Marc Loving (19 points, 5-for-5 3PT) led Ohio State in scoring, and another freshman stepped forward to give the Buckeyes the effort (and toughness) they’ve lacked in the paint at times this season.

Jae’Sean Tate, a 6-foot-4 freshman forward making his third consecutive start, accounted for 16 points and eight rebounds with five of the caroms being of the offensive variety. As a team Ohio State rebounded just over 42 percent of its misses against Maryland, converting those extra opportunities into 18 second-chance points.

“I thought we played tougher, we were quick to the ball, we got a little careless there in transition in the second half, but for the most part, I thought guys did what they were supposed to do,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said after the game. “I think we rebounded the ball well, we rebounded out of our area. I thought we did a good job of the rotations defensively and walled guys up.”

Finding consistent play in the front court has been something that Ohio State has worked to do all season long. Graduate transfer Anthony Lee, who averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game at Temple last season, hasn’t been as productive for the Buckeyes and senior Amir Williams (6.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg) was recently removed from the starting lineup.

Someone had to step forward, and despite being undersized from a height standpoint Tate (who leads the team in offensive rebounds per game at 1.9) has been that man in each of the last two games.

Tate’s performance against Maryland comes on the heels of his 20-point, six-rebound effort in Ohio State’s win over Indiana on Sunday. Whether or not Tate continues to score at this clip remains to be seen, but at the very least the Buckeyes need him to bring the energy that he’s supplied in each of their last two games. If Tate can continue to provide that spark, Ohio State will have a better chance of accounting for their lack of consistent production in the post.