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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Go Wire-To-Wire In Win Over No. 21 Maryland

by on February 07, 2017 10:00 PM

Penn State snapped its three game losing streak and handed No. 21 Maryland its first true road defeat of the season as the Nittany Lions beat the Terrapins 70-64 on Tuesday night.

In a game that Penn State trailed in for only 19 seconds it was the freshman class carrying the load for a total of 53 points and 25 rebounds between the four players, finding their points from all over the court.

While neither team shot the ball particularly well in the opening minutes it was Penn State working out to an eventual six-point, 19-13 lead with 9:35 to go in the half; Lamar Stevens taking a pass from former high school teammate Nazeer Bostick and sinking a three for the third straight game.

The half continued in a back-and-forth affair but Maryland never regained its early lead as Penn State responded to short bursts with scores of its own.

In what would eventually an important stat in the second half, Penn State managed to shoot well from the free throw line going 13-of-16, helping to hold Maryland back from the short offensive surges. By the half it was Penn State still leading to the tune of 35-29, Stevens pacing the Nittany Lions with nine points, Tony Carr chipping in eight of his own and five rebounds while Mike Watkins went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line and hauled down five boards of his own.

The tide turned in the second half as Maryland racked up the foul calls thanks in large part to aggressive drives into the paint and Penn State eventually found itself with four players with four fouls.

Despite a whistle-happy opening five minutes to the half Penn State managed to survive the early momentum swing still leading 40-31 with 15:52 to go. Over the next several minutes the Nittany Lions would extend the lead to as many as 14 before a few quick baskets made it just an eight point 52-44 game with 9:03 to play.

Maryland hadn't reached the 20-win mark without its fair share of good shooting and the Terps quickly bounced back cutting Penn State's lead to just four with 3:26 to go thanks in large part to its full court press, Penn State turnovers and timely threes quickly shifted momentum back in Maryland's favor.

So as Shep Garner missed a three, it was a rebound and layup under the basket by Bostick, often relegated to the bench in week's prior that pushed Penn State's lead back out to six with 3:04 to go. Just seconds later Bostick would leave his mark again, blocking a drive to the hoop, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Maryland would eventually cut the lead to just four, with Bostick's basket looming large as Stevens turned the ball over on a backcourt violation.

"He has the nickname "Horse," because he makes plays like that," Stevens said after the game. "He comes up big in huge moments, and he's always done this since high school. It's not surprising to see Naz just being that tough physical guy, and he deserved to make that play."

It was a sequence that proved to be crucial in the outcome of the game, Maryland forcing a backcourt violation down by just four points, but Carr's rebound with 1:24 to go would essentially seal the deal, two free throws extending Penn State's lead to six with 1:22 remaining, the Terps getting no closer than six in the final minute of play.

"Really proud of my team,"  Penn State coach Pat Chambers said after the game. "They worked really hard Sunday and Monday to continue this process of getting better. They came out and showed a gutsy effort tonight. They kept Maryland at bay...give them credit, because they don't make it easy. They have a lot of talented players on the floor, they stretch you out and make great plays. I felt like our team made big plays when we had to. Critical plays. Really, I'm most proud of that mindset of not feeling sorry for ourselves. Keeping a great attitude. Because you know what? No one feels sorry for us. So we just have to keep getting better, and good things are going to happen to us. Success is going to come."

On paper Penn State improves to 13-12 on the year and 5-7 in the Big Ten. Stevens led the way with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds while Mike Watkins and Carr combined for 16 rebounds and 24 points. Garner was an unusually poor 1-of-9 and Payton Banks went 0-for-4 from the the field, all three point shots in 18 minutes of play. Penn State's defense held Maryland to 33-percent shooting with the Terps scoring 17 from the free throw line.

Beyond that though the Nittany Lions went a long way towards proving that the youth movement is still alive and well, even with a few bumps in the road.



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