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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall 75-69 To Maryland

by on January 02, 2018 8:08 PM

Probably the most damning thing about the current state of Penn State basketball is that it seems so close to something special while simultaneously so far away.

The Nittany Lions are talented but frequently inconsistent. They're athletic but occasionally seem to lack direction. They're fun to watch but have yet to win a game that really matters so far this year.

A quick count has Penn State at 16-31 under Pat Chambers in games decided by two possessions much like Monday night's 75-69 loss to Maryland. That number includes a lot of teams that had no real business winning no matter who the coach was and the fact 47 Penn State basketball games in Big Ten play came down to the final minutes is no small thing in and of itself.

But Monday was just the latest variation of the same tune. The Terps came into the night plagued with injuries and Penn State followed that up with cold shooting. Both teams traded baskets, neither team made three and Maryland racked up free throws. Josh Reaves' three late in the half gave Penn State a slim lead but with a full 20 minutes left to defend it.

And for the most part the Nittany Lions did just that. But like so many times before a brief period of cool shooting coupled with a few timely Maryland baskets gave the Terps a late lead that Penn State couldn't erase in the final minutes. It didn't really matter that Mike Watkins had 17 points and 17 rebounds, in the end it was fun to watch, but none of it happened when it absolutely had to. Tony Carr had 16 points, Lamar Stevens 15 more, everyone else a scoring bystander.

So Penn State faces a kind of grim reality. They are talented enough to win more Big Ten games than they lose, but until these sorts of games are going the Nittany Lions way it's hard to imagine that happening. Is it coaching, bad luck or just something else? Probably a bit of everything. Either way, both of Penn State's losses in Big Ten play have come against teams that the Nittany Lions probably should have beat and very nearly did.

The unfortunate thing for the program, as it sits so close to finally getting what it has chased after for nearly a decade, it's hardest challenge at this point might be getting anyone to care.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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