Maryland stays close, falls to No. 20 Pitt

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland is out of Pittsburgh's league, or at least it will be next season.

Judging by the teams' two meetings this year, that's good news for the Terrapins.

Their second go-round with the 20th-ranked Panthers was a little closer and more competitive than the first, but the result was the same.

Despite a flurry from Maryland in the final minutes, Pitt held on and topped the Terps 83-79 Saturday in front of 17,202 at Comcast Center.

A season-high crowd watched the Terrapins come up short in their first home game against Pittsburgh since 1980. If the Panthers take another 34 years between visits, it might not be considered so rude.

One of the newest Atlantic Coast Conference members completed the regular-season sweep and showcased one of college basketball's superstars in Lamar Patterson.

Pitt's senior forward poured in a game-high 28 points and helped the Panthers hand Big Ten-bound Maryland (11-9, 3-4 ACC) its fourth loss in five games.

"I've been doing this a long time ... I'm telling you, that's one of the best teams I've ever coached against," Terps coach Mark Turgeon said about Pitt (18-2, 6-1). "How they're ranked 20th at 18-2 is an absolute joke. I think they're a top 5 team in the country."

Every time Maryland seemed to inject a little life into its comeback try, Patterson and the Panthers had an answer. Even with them missing nine of 14 free throws in the final 1:50, after making 23 of their first 33, they held off a Terps team that trailed by as many as 13 points midway through the second half.

Dez Wells brought his team back to within 81-76 with seven points in a two-minute span, but Pittsburgh took advantage of being in the bonus and got to the line. The Panthers' 47 free-throw attempts merely amplified Maryland's troubles.

"Our defense wasn't as good as it should've been," said Wells, who led Maryland with 19 points. "We have to do a better job of talking and knowing situations. Those are things that you can't teach ... that's what we have to get better at. I have faith in us, I believe we will."

Patterson scored 19 points in Pittsburgh's first game against Maryland this season, a 79-59 win in which the Panthers scored 43 points in the second half. They needed 41 Saturday to hold off the Terrapins, who struggled from 3-point range (4 for 17) and committed 17 turnovers.

Turgeon tried to stay positive after the loss and commended the Terps for staying focused after falling behind by double figures.

"We're better in practice defensively than we were a month ago," he said. "Just understanding and being in the right spot. It was really one play, the double-ball screen, and our big guys just couldn't get a hold of it."

Patterson had his way with Maryland's defense more often than not, and he helped his teammates with seven rebounds and seven assists. Pitt center Talib Zanna (seven rebounds) pitched in 16 points, guard James Robinson scored 13 and fellow guard Cameron Wright added 12.

Patterson was 12 for 13 from the free-throw line himself, and slashed to the hoop while the Terrapins tried different schemes to stop him.

"We forgot that Patterson was a pretty good player sometimes," Turgeon said. "We've got to play a little bit smarter than we did."

Jake Layman finished with 18 points, Nick Faust came off the bench and scored 13, and Evan Smotrycz added 10. But Maryland lost the rebound battle, 37-28, and its big men struggled to match up with Pitt's post players (Smotrycz led the Terps with seven).

Maryland made five of its first seven field goals and led 11-6, but the Terps' quick start evaporated in a hurry. Pittsburgh stretched its lead to 38-29 with 2:51 to play behind an 11-1 run.

Maryland climbed back into it and energized the Comcast crowd with an alley-oop dunk from Faust from Layman, cutting Pitt's lead to 40-37.

But the Panthers led 42-37 at the break behind 16 of 17 free throws in the half.

"We played really hard tonight," Layman said. "We just went a little crazy, took some crazy shots and had some bad turnovers. That was really the game right there."