Penn State men's basketball has its first signature win of the 2019-20 season, knocking off undefeated No. 4 Maryland by a final of 76-69 on Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. Now sporting an 8-2 (1-1 Big Ten) record with three quality wins, the Nittany Lions have a legitimate case to be a ranked team next week.
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After losing in embarrassing fashion in Columbus on Saturday against Ohio State, Tuesday's game presented an opportunity to justify the early season hype for Penn State. A home game against the 4th-ranked team in the nation offered the Nittany Lions a chance to get a high-quality win and make the case that Penn State deserves to be ranked.
It looked shaky at times down the stretch, with Penn State making several blunders in the closing seconds that allowed Maryland to have a chance at a comeback. A Lamar Stevens traveling violation at midcourt, an ill-advised early shot clock three by Myles Dread, and a too-easy and-one play off of an inbound gave the Terrapins hope. But the Nittany Lions were able to do enough, particularly with blocked shots, to hang on and seal the deal.
Five Nittany Lions got into double figures. Stevens and Mike Watkins both had 15 points, Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington had 14 each, and Dread contributed 12 points. Jones led with 6 assists, while Watkins had 11 boards and Stevens had 10 to give each a double-double. Watkins had four blocked shots, while Brockington added three steals.
The Nittany Lions made a statement right out of the gate, starting the game with a 5-0 lead after a Watkins alley-oop and a Dread three. After forcing 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game, they extended their lead to 27-15 midway through the first half. Maryland fought back at times, but a buzzer-beating corner three from Myreon Jones kept the lead at double digits, 40-30, at halftime.
The active defense, combined with avoiding the foul trouble that plagued them Saturday, laid the foundation for Penn State's first half. Forcing 13 turnovers led to 17 of their 40 first-half points. They finished the game with 10 blocks and 10 steals, forcing 20 Maryland turnovers for the game.
Maryland slowly chipped away at the lead in the second half, getting the lead down to 52-50 before Penn State answered with three straight baskets, including a transition dunk by Brockington with 8 minutes to go that gave the Nittany Lions a 58-50 lead.
Despite the protestations of Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, the officiating disparity leaned in the favor of the Terrapins. Maryland attempted 19 free throws over the game's first 36 minutes. Those 19 came before a single Nittany Lion free throw attempt; Penn State's first two came with 3:50 to go in the second half. The rest came after Penn State held a 67-59 lead when Maryland began fouling to get back into it with just under two minutes remaining.
Penn State will host the 4-4 Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday, looking to move to 9-2 ahead of the new AP Poll on Monday. Alabama won the game in Tuscaloosa last season 73-64.