Ever since the Maryland men’s basketball began its Big Ten schedule this season, road games have featured packed arenas, passionate fans and favored opponents.
With the exception of an overtime victory at Illinois in early December in the league opener, the result has been depressingly the same for the Terps.
There was some variance Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, where the nation’s No. 1 wrestling team is the only one to draw sellouts for Penn State.
As Maryland did last week at No. 3 Purdue, the Terps erased most of a double-digit deficit and had a chance to put a scare into the Nittany Lions, but couldn’t quite finish the comeback.
The outcome was pretty much a repeat of several of Maryland’s road losses this season — a 74-70 defeat in which the Terps shot well enough to win and were done in, partly by fatigue.
Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points, but missed a driving layup with 29 seconds to go that could have cut what had been a 10-point deficit to one.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon showed his mounting frustrating with a season that is going in the wrong direction after a series of injuries that has depleted his team’s frontcourt and depth.
“My guys battled, are you serious guys? Let’s be real, my guys battled,” Turgeon said. “They got a heck of a team. They got maybe three NBA guys on that roster. My guys battled.”
Maryland (16-10, 5-8) made 13 of 22 shots in the first half and trailed by six because Penn State (17-9, 7-6) scored 12 points off turnovers and an additional nine on second-chance baskets.
For the game, the Terps shot 54.3 percent (25-for-46) and made nine of 17 on 3-pointers. But they didn’t have an answer for sophomore forward Lamar Stevens, who scored 25 points on 10-for-12 from the field.
“He made a lot of tough shots,” sophomore guard Kevin Huerter said. “He shoots better at home. We were kind of playing him as a driver, make shots overhand. There were a couple of times when we didn’t get out on him. He’s a tough matchup.”
After the win at Illinois on Dec. 3, the loss was the sixth straight in the Big Ten for the Terps on the road, where a year ago they finished 7-2. Maryland has lost four of five and six of eight games overall.
“We couldn’t really get a stop all game. They shot really well,” Huerter said. “We didn’t think we competed well in the first half on the defensive end. In the second half we were better, but still didn’t get very many stops.”
Tough night for Huerter
Huerter got off to a good start against the Nittany Lions, making a couple of early free throws and then hitting back-to-back shots — a long 2-pointer and a 3-pointer on the next possession — to give Maryland an early 20-14 lead.
But Huerter didn’t do much after that, and seemed to force things a bit in the second half.
Huerter, whose last basket of the first half cut Maryland’s deficit to 37-35, didn’t score again until there was 2:41 remaining in the game and trailing by seven. He added another basket exactly a minute later again to cut the defict to five.
While Huerter finished with a solid line — 13 points, five rebounds and thee assists — he also had four turnovers and seemed a bit sluggish at times getting to defensive rebounds and loose balls.
Turgeon said that a lot had to do with the defense the Nittany Lions used on both Huerter (5-for-12 overall, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers) as well as Cowan (4-for-7 overall, 3-for-3 on 3-pointers).
“They’ve got a really good defender in Josh Reaves” Turgeon said. “He’s terrific. He’s not kind of good, he’s really good. He blew up a lot of things out there. I think you’ve got to give him a little credit and No. 5 — [Jamari] Wheeler — he’s a great defender, too. They really pressured us.”
Turgeon added that the defense thrown at Huerter and Cowan is the reason “Dion [Wiley] and Jared [Nickens] are getting open looks.” Nickens scored 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting and Wiley was 2-for-3 on 3-pointers, to finish with six.
Fernando bounces back
Freshman center Bruno Fernando, who had just five points in Sunday’s win over Wisconsin and struggled at times defensively against Ethan Happ, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Fernando also did a solid job on Penn State center Mike Watkins, who had 17 points and 17 rebounds in his team’s 75-69 loss to the Terps on Jan. 2 at Xfinity Center, wound up with 11 points and just five rebounds.
Not only did the 6-10 Angolan show the strength inside he has demonstrated when healthy this season, but he also continued to prove he has a midrange game and show a soft touch at the free-throw line (5-for-5). He also had three assists.
Turnovers were Fernando’s biggest problem. He finished with six of Maryland’s 14.
MARYLAND—Fernando 4-6 5-5 13, Cowan 4-7 4-7 15, Morsell 5-8 0-0 10, Wiley 2-3 0-0 6, Huerter 5-12 2-2 13, Tomaic 0-0 0-0 0, Obi 0-0 0-0 0, Mona 0-0 0-0 0, Nickens 5-10 0-0 13. Totals 25-46 11-14 70.
PENN ST.—Watkins 5-7 1-4 11, Stevens 10-12 3-4 25, Garner 2-8 0-0 6, Reaves 5-10 3-4 14, Carr 5-12 2-2 16, Pierce 0-1 0-0 0, Moore 0-1 0-2 0, Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Bostick 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 27-52 11-18 74.
Halftime—Penn St. 41-35. 3-point goals—Maryland 9-17 (Cowan 3-3, Nickens 3-7, Wiley 2-3, Huerter 1-4), Penn St. 9-21 (Carr 4-6, Stevens 2-3, Garner 2-8, Reaves 1-3, Bostick 0-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Maryland 23 (Fernando 9), Penn St. 24 (Reaves 9). Assists—Maryland 14 (Cowan 5), Penn St. 14 (Carr 6). Total fouls—Maryland 17, Penn St. 12. A—8,435 (15,261).