|1st half||2nd half||final|
Penn State won a highly-entertaining seesaw game against the Maryland Terrapins to get to 7-6 in Big Ten play, the first time their conference record has been above .500 in February since the 2009 season. Lamar Stevens carried his squad with a nearly-perfect game of basketball: 25 points on 10-12 shooting from the field. The Nittany Lions (17-9, 7-6) emerged victorious despite the Terps shooting 54% from the field and 9-17 from three.
PSU looked comfortable for much of the second half, but game was in the balance until the very end. With 30 seconds left and Maryland down three, Anthony Cowan's transition layup attempt caromed off the high backboard and into the arms of Mike Watkins. Josh Reaves was fouled after crossing halfcourt and sank the singular free throw needed to put the game out of reach. Not for nothing, Penn State played excellent defense on Maryland's last real chance as Jared Nickens' off-balance three was well guarded.
We mentioned in our game preview that Maryland's injury-depleted roster had no one that could guard Stevens. That much was evident as the sophomore power wing missed just twice on 12 attempts on an array of his specialty mid-range jumpers. Stevens even drained two stare-down threes from a standstill.
This was not Penn State's finest defensive effort, but they made the plays needed to come away with victory. Maryland's freshman big Bruno Fernando was impressive again, but he was quietly forced into six turnovers battling against Watkins on the low block. Watkins won the battle against Fernando but his team lost the war in Landover; his line was a modest 11 points and five rebounds tonight, but did a better job against Fernando (13 points, nine rebounds) this time around. Penn State won the battle on the boards overall, negating Maryland's hot three-point shooting. Thirteen second-chance points to the Terps' eight was ultimately the difference for the home team.
Tony Carr made his mark with 16 points on 12 shots and six assists. Penn State's offense is flowing right now, and Carr deserves some credit for his improved shot selection. He's still got the ability to take over a game, though - his fourth and final three-pointer of the evening put Penn State up by nine with 3:14 and put them over the 70-point mark, a mark Maryland would not cross. Josh Reaves' full impact isn't expressed in the box score, as usual. He finished with a Reavesian 14 points, nine boards and just one steal, but he was tasked with guarding the crafty Cowan. Maryland's point guard mustered just seven attempts from the field and finished with 15 points.
It's finally falling into place for the Nittany Lions, who have opportunities to play themselves onto the bubble. They took care of business on Wednesday night, and they'll need to bring the same effort level to Champaign on Sunday night. Illinois has managed to wake up after an 0-8 start and put together three consecutive positive performances. Brad Underwood's squad has a home date with Wisconsin on Thursday prior to hosting the Lions. With the Badgers in dire straits, the Illini may have some positive momentum of their own heading into the weekend.