Penn State-Maryland Preview: Lions Look to Extend Home Winning Streak

By Brad Peterson on February 5, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Feb 2, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Darryl Morsell (11) shoots during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Xfinity Center.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Recap

The Lions come limping home, still unable to crack the code for a victory at the Kohl Center, losing in Madison for the 20th straight time Tuesday night 72-56.

The Groundhog Day redux was almost an exact replay of the first half at home, with PSU down 33-31 at the half (they trailed 34-31 in the first matchup). The game was close thanks to 11 Wisconsin turnovers, but the Lions didn't have the second half shooting to snag another win. Penn State missed its first six shots coming out of the locker room and made only one of its first nine leading to a 15-2 run by Wisconsin which essentially put the game away.

In the first matchup, Penn State was lethal on the fast break, scoring 21 points in such situations, but scored 0 fast break points on Tuesday. The 56 points scored is the fewest scored this season, a testament to both the Lions’ shooting woes and the tough defense played by the Badgers. Myreon Jones led Penn State with 14 points on 6-15 shooting. John Harrar chipped in with 10 points on a perfect 3-3 from the field and 4-4 from the FT line. PSU struggled as a team, though, shooting only 38% from the field and 25% from behind the arc.

Maryland Terrapins
10-8 (4-7 B1G)
7 p.m. EST – Friday, Feb. 5
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
KenPom Rank: 43
Line: PSU -2

Next up for Penn State (6-8, 3-7, #35 NET) are the Maryland Terrapins. The Terps (10-8, 4-7, #39 NET) come to the Bryce Jordan Center oozing with confidence after a come-from-behind last-second 61-60 win over Purdue thanks to a  6-0 run to close the game. Aaron Wiggins led Maryland with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Eric Ayala had 16 and Darryl Morsell added 11 points. Despite developing a habit of starting slowly, Maryland has won four of its last six and has beaten three ranked opponents on the road.

Maryland holds a 14-11 advantage in the series, which dates back to 1960, with only a one-point differential after 25 games. Penn State has won four of the last six, including a 76-69 upset of the then-undefeated and No. 4-ranked Terps. In that game, both Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens had double-doubles, with Izaiah Brockington (14), Jones (14), and Myles Dread (12) also hitting double figures in the scoring column.

Projected Starters
Penn State Maryland
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Sr. Aaron Wiggins – 6’6” – Jr.
Myreon Jones - 6'3" - Jr. Eric Ayala – 6’5” – Jr.
Izaiah Brockington - 6'4" - Jr. Darryl Morsell – 6’5” – Sr.
Seth Lundy - 6'6" - So. Donta Scott – 6’7” – So.
John Harrar - 6'9" -  Sr. Galin Smith – 6’9” – Sr.


As evidenced by Mark Turgeon's continued tinkering with the starting line-up, Maryland is a team still trying to find its identity. Some of that is by design and some has been necessitated by injuries. Losing Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith from the 2019-20 co-B1G Champion roster has left a huge scoring and leadership void. Mark Turgeon has said the one word that best describes this year’s Terrapins is “inconsistent”.

One player who has tried to assume that leadership role is Darryl Morsell. The 6’5” senior guard averages 8.5 PPG, but that doesn’t nearly tell the story of his value. Despite catching an inadvertent elbow earlier this year and sustaining a facial fracture and next-day surgery, he returned less than a week later, donning his new mask. He leads the Terps in assists, is a defensive stalwart, and does all the things that contribute to wins but don't show up in the box score. Look for Morsell to try to lock down Jones or Brockington.

Leading scorer Ayala (13.8 PPG), also missed time earlier this year due to a groin injury. He leads the team in minutes at nearly 33 minutes per game and in steals at just over one steal per game. Ayala will mix it up inside and is a decent three-point threat at 34%. He is also 81% at the FT line, so it was no surprise he calmly sank two from the stripe to seal the win against Purdue.

Wiggins is the third wing, as he, Ayala, and Morsell are nearly interchangeable on the floor. Wiggins averages 12.8 PPG and is second on the team in rebounds and assists. He has an inconsistent jump shot and can struggle from deep. He can get to the rim adeptly with either hand and finishes well.

The other player averaging double-figure scoring is Donta Scott. The 6’7” sophomore from Philly hits 12.7 PPG and leads the team at 6.6 rebounds per game. He has the body to bang inside but also leads the team in three-point shooting at 45.7%.

Maryland has had five different players lead them in scoring in games this season, and the four listed above along with Hakim Hart all contribute more than 8 PPG. Aaron Wiggins has led in scoring five times, including the last two games, but it is a balanced attack. This can make them tough to defend since any of these guys can light it up for 20 on any given night, but the lack of a Cowan type also means the lack of a "go-to" guy in clutch situations.

The two teams are very evenly matched, as you would expect when you look at the numbers. The two glaring differences are Maryland only forces 11 turnovers per game, #315 in all of D-I, and only gets 5 steals per game, #301. The Terps also don’t foul much, at only 15 per game, #21 in D1. PSU has done a better job of not fouling the last five games, with only 14 fouls per game and 12 per game in the three wins. The team that wins at the FT line may determine the final outcome.

Keys to the Game

  • Patience. Maryland will swarm on defense and pressure the perimeter to keep your offense out of sync. However, they are prone to missed assignments and their energy on defense can fluctuate if shots aren’t falling. PSU needs to be patient in moving the ball, be willing to pass up good shots to look for great ones, and avoid a long scoring drought, which seems to occur nearly every game.
  • Defensive rotation. Maryland will spread the floor and attack the rim off dribble penetration. Penn State will need to defend with their feet and not their hands to avoid fouls and communicate when switching on D. Too many times Harrar or Buttrick has ended up alone outside on an opposing guard, which has led to too many open looks and easy drives.
  • Win the second half. Maryland has outscored its opponents 701-619 in games this year. The Terps used second-half rallies to down both Purdue and Illinois, and a furious second-half comeback fell just short against Wisconsin. It will take a full 40 minutes for PSU to emerge victoriously.


As I mentioned earlier, these two teams are virtually even in key statistics. Maryland currently sits 10th in the league, one spot above PSU. Penn State is #33 on the NCAA’s NET and #35 on Kenpom, Maryland comes in at #38 and #43, respectively. Both teams still have aspirations of an NCAA tournament bid and have the metrics but need wins as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Terps just in his latest bracket and Penn State as the 8th team out. This has the feel of a play-in game as both teams are fighting each other for an at-large bid. I expect another tight game in the series as this is as close to a must-win game as you can have in the first week of February. I predict the Lions will defend the home court and pick up a much-needed win as they try to strengthen their resume.

Penn State 78, Maryland 76