|1st half||2nd half||final|
Two late threes from point guard Anthony Cowan sealed defeat for Penn State in their latest attempt to win at Maryland's XFINITY Center. The Nittany Lions turned the Terrapins over 17 times in a strong defensive display, but twin towers Jalen Smith (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Bruno Fernando (12 points, 13 rebounds) were too dominant inside to overcome. Lamar Stevens led all scorers with 19 points on an inefficient 24 shots. Once again, Penn State had a tough time getting to the free throw line in College Park - they've shot just 10 total free throws in their last two years in this fixture. Maryland, meanwhile, got to the line 25 times on Saturday.
Penn State' struggles on offense began early. Josh Reaves hit three triples through eight minutes - otherwise the Nittany Lions generated no points until Stevens connected on a mid-range jumper with 11:13 left in the first half. Penn State's defense was up for the challenge, however, forcing turnovers and holding the Terps to 12 points of their own during that stretch. The visitors took the lead on the back of a 10-0 run and would eventually push that lead to eight near the end of the half.
Maryland climbed back into the game, scoring 13 of their final 15 points of the half from the charity stripe to slim the halftime deficit to one point. Seven Penn Staters, including every starter, accumulated two fouls by the break. You don't have to be Nostradamus to predict what happened in the second half with the cloud of foul trouble lingering over the Nittany Lions against two outstanding big men in Fernando and Smith. The former scored his only two field goals of the game in the opening three minutes of the second half as the Terps wiped clean the halftime lead and took control of the game.
Rasir Bolton played a strong second half, with two of his 15 points giving the Nittany Lions a lead at 50-49 with 9:49 to play. It would be their last, however, as Cowan took over and scored nine of his 15 points over the final nine minutes. He delivered the final dagger from way out, pulling up and ripping the net to put Maryland up 64-59 with 34 seconds left. Bolton's attempt to answer was off the mark and that was that.
Pat Chambers should be pleased with his team's defensive effort, all things considered. Those things to consider include a silent whistle to his team's detriment and an out of sorts Mike Watkins, who failed to record a point or rebound in 11 foul-ridden minutes against Maryland's imposing front court. Chambers noted in the post-game that the Lions are seeking another playmaker to pair with Stevens - Reaves went scoreless in the second half as Bolton stepped up, but there's no question Stevens can't be relied upon to win these games alone.
The next three games for Penn State (4-3, 0-1) will go a long way towards determining the fate of their season. Their second early conference game against Indiana on Tuesday presents the opportunity to avoid an 0-2 start in a deep Big Ten, and after a home date with Colgate on Saturday the Nittany Lions will get the week off in prep for an Atlantic City battle with a quality NC State team. More on the Hoosiers this week.