With less than 40 seconds remaining in overtime and the ball stuck at the top of the 3-point arc, Maryland men’s basketball put the ball in the hands of point guard Jahmir Young.
Instead of taking the shot himself, Young scoured the court and slotted a pinpoint pass between two defenders into the waiting hands of DeShawn Harris-Smith. The freshman rose up and finished through contact, while being fouled, to give Maryland a four-point lead and seal a dramatic 81-75 victory in College Park.
The assist was only Young’s third of the game, but the contest’s most important. His scoring output was prolific — he ended with a game-high 28 points — but when it mattered most, he selflessly passed the ball in pursuit of a better look.
“It was a good cut by DeShawn. When he cut back door, he was wide open,” Young said. “So I just had to make sure I got it to him. And I knew he was gonna finish. That was a key possession and I just had to make sure I was strong with my pass and I knew where I was going with it.”
Although Maryland (5-4, 1-1 Big Ten) eventually came out on top in the extra period, it let an opportunity to seal the game in regulation slip away. A pair of missed free throws in the closing seconds allowed Penn State (4-5, 0-2) a chance to inbound the ball under its own hoop down two points. On that play, Jahari Long was called for a reach-in, sending Ace Baldwin Jr. to the line for a pair of shots that he calmly knocked down to send the game to overtime.
With the Terps dazed, Reese took charge in the huddle and refocused his teammates before the decisive extra period.
“It was a lot of guys in the huddle down because of the foul that happened and guys were like ‘The game should be over,’” Reese said. “I was just telling that guys that, you know, lock in. The play’s over, we got five more minutes of basketball. And I feel like we took care of business.”
Reese put forth a dominant performance Wednesday, one of the best of his career. His physicality kept the Terps in the game, grabbing 15 rebounds and posting a career-high 24 points. He also drew 13 fouls in 41 minutes played, making him one of two players — the other being Young, who played 44 minutes — to be on the court for longer than a regulation game.
“Just the atmosphere and the energy — I could still play longer than that,” Young said. “So yeah, I feel like we’ll feel it in the morning, but right now we’re just, you know, glad we got the win.”
Maryland found its rhythm late, but it was a sluggish start on the offensive end. It turned the ball over four times on its first 10 possessions and didn’t cross the double-digit-point threshold until more than 11 minutes had elapsed. The Terps looked disoriented.
Penn State wasn’t potent either, but pieced together a 30-28 halftime lead. Sophomore guard Kanye Clary led the way with 25 points on the night, 13 of which came in the first half.
A common ocurrence this season, Maryland took 14 shots from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes and only hit three. The Terps went 2-for-11 from distance thereafter, ending the night as the second-worst 3-point shooting team in all of Division I.
“Just looking at the numbers, there’s really no joy right now,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “I’m happy we won and glad that we pulled it out and happy for these kids that work so hard, but we just have a lot of stuff we have to fix.”
In the nick of time, though, the Terps found a groove. They went on a run midway through the second half to take the lead and put Penn State on its heels.
The Terps were boosted by Young and Reese, but also received contributions elsewhere. Freshman Jamie Kaiser Jr. granted Maryland a lead by drilling his second three of the game with just over three minutes remaining. But the Nittany Lions had answers — enough to tie the score before the clock hit zero.
However, Penn State missed all eight of its field goal attempts in overtime, and Maryland’s newfound momentum willed it to its first Big Ten victory.
“I feel like it definitely gives the team confidence, you know,” Reese said. “After tonight, we can see that we can battle through adversity and stay together.”
Three things to know
1. Reese carried the Terps. At times, Reese single-handedly kept Maryland afloat by asserting himself and making Penn State’s forwards uncomfortable. Reese’s opposite, Qudus Wahab, fouled out with over four minutes left in regulation.
2. Freshmen shined. There have been growing pains for the freshman duo of Harris-Smith and Kaiser, but they offered glimpses Wednesday night at what they can offer. They combined for 17 points, many of which came in key moments.
“I feel like nothing you really do in high school can prepare you for these moments,” Kaiser said. “But those plays that we made were just confidence that we have in ourselves, but also the confidence that coach Willard has in us too. ... We don’t even think about making a mistake, we just try to make a play and that’s what we did.”
3. First Big Ten win. It took 45 minutes, but Maryland notched its first Big Ten win. Given the team’s early-season struggles, it badly needed a conference victory and got it at home, where it has won 14 straight Big Ten contests.