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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Upend No. 4 Maryland 76-69

by on December 10, 2019 10:30 PM

Penn State basketball has beaten Top 10 teams before — in fact, Tuesday night's 76-69 win over No. 4 Maryland is the third-straight home victory against the No. 4 team in the nation under coach Pat Chambers. In total Penn State is 4-2 against top 10 teams at the Bryce Jordan Center since 2016.

So the Nittany Lions have always been good for the upset, something Vegas saw as it favored the Terps by just a single point earlier in the day.

But there is something to be said about the word "upset."

In years past, Penn State's upsets have come later in the season, squeezed in the middle of a dozen losses. They've caught teams on bad nights and woken up hot shooting streaks that have put opponents on their heels.

Tuesday night felt different. It was an upset by definition, but nothing about it was shocking.

The Nittany Lions played the same way they had throughout the early stages of the season: with poise, tireless defense and timely shotmaking. Maryland stumbled against Penn State's pressure, coughing the ball up 20 times in the process, and had little answer for a Penn State offensive attack that had no central figure.

Couple all of this with a raucous atmosphere and you get what you saw on Tuesday night. Two very good teams playing and the better one winning. An upset on paper, but not so much on the floor.

For senior Lamar Stevens these types of wins are not his first rodeo. He has seen it all. He has won a lot of games people said he shouldn't and Tuesday night was just another one of those. 

But it also wasn't.

"In previous years it was always like a hero would step up and be the reason why we win this game," Stevens said. "But tonight it was everybody. Everybody really contributed in big moments and I think that's how you know you have the makings of a good team. Everybody played their all and did it to the best of their ability, so this one really did feel different. Just a total team win."

And Stevens is right. Five different Nittany Lions scored 12-15 points, all at the moments they were needed the most. Mike Watkins was active on the glass with 11 rebounds to go with his 15 points and four blocks. Izaiah Brockington was fearless on both ends of the floor, 14 points to match his three steals and countless defensive moments that don't make the box score. Myreon Jones grew up in his second Big Ten game with six assists and a single turnover and 14 points to his name.

When they needed a stop they got it. When the Nittany Lions needed a basket, someone made it. In turn, Penn State led 40-30 at the half, and never relinquished the lead in the second despite Maryland cutting it to a single basket, despite punches thrown and punches landed. 

"I trust my teammates to make the right plays and I think this is a total team, a real team," Stevens add. "I don't think we're going to have many nights where guys are scoring 30 because we just have so many weapons. I think we're just going to have balanced nights like these and that's going to help us get to the next level."

That's the thing which makes this Penn State win different than the others, different than the upsets mashed within a million losses and a thousand near misses. It could be easy to chalk this up as Penn State's obligatory upset, an annual proof of concept. 

But this didn't feel like a fluke. It didn't feel like an aligning of the stars. It just looked like good basketball, and it came in December this time, not February.

"The better team won," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.

And sure the Nittany Lions are not suddenly a top 10 team, nor a team without its weakness or areas in need of improvement. They will lose again.

But they will probably win again too, and by the looks of things on Tuesday night, more than a few times in Big Ten play.



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