Maryland men’s basketball took care of business on its home court against a desperate Penn State squad. Despite a second-half push from the Nittany Lions, Maryland held strong, defeating them, 74-68.
Hakim Hart had a career day and Jahmir Young took over in the second half to propel the Terps to a win. Maryland moved to 8-6 in the conference with just six games to go.
Let’s get to some takeaways.
Maryland continues to feed off its home court advantage.
Maryland is virtually unstoppable at home. Maryland is undefeated in conference home games, the only team in the conference that has yet to lose a conference game on its home floor. The Terps have also won 10 straight Big Ten home games, their longest streak since they joined the conference.
Maryland announced Saturday’s game was a sellout, the first sellout since March 2020. The announced attendance was 17,950, which led to a tremendous Saturday afternoon atmosphere at the XFINITY Center.
“This building rocks, man. It’s really, really helped us,” Terps head coach Kevin Willard said.
Maryland fed off of the crowd’s energy all game, including going on a string of runs in the second half that allowed it to pull away from a feisty Penn State team.
“The fans are basically our sixth man,” Hart said.
Maryland has six games left, three of which are at home. The hardest test Maryland has on its home floor is coming this Thursday when No. 1 Purdue is in town. Maryland lost by three the first time those teams met in West Lafayette. It is sure to be an incredible environment Thursday night.
Maryland’s success is dependent on Jahmir Young, but Hakim Hart led the way on Saturday.
The Terps will go where Jahmir Young takes them. If Young is struggling, so is Maryland’s offense. Young had just five points in the first half against Penn State and continued to struggle in the early minutes of the second half, leading to a run from Penn State that led to the Nittany Lions capturing their first lead of the game.
However, it was Young who was at the center of a 9-0 run that propelled the Terps back in front. The correlation between Young playing well and Maryland playing well is as clear as day. He’s Maryland’s engine and if he’s not running, the Terps have a tough time moving very far.
In a recent article in The Athletic, an anonymous Big Ten coach told Seth Davis that “A bad night from him [Young] is hard to overcome” for Maryland. That analysis is spot on. Luckily for Maryland, it wasn't a bad game from Young, just a bad half. Young carried the Terps in the second half to the tune of 13 points. He finished with 18 for the game.
While Young is the catalyst for the Maryland offense, he can't carry the load himself. Hakim Hart had his best conference game this season against Penn State. Hart dropped 23 points — the most he's scored in a Big Ten game — on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. Hart’s threes have been off in Big Ten play this season, and although he made two on Saturday, he found ways to score without relying on the long ball. Hart consistently backed down his defender and got to his spots, leading to a plethora of points in the paint.
Willard said he felt that Young was expending a ton of energy on defense, so he wanted to take the ball out of Young’s hands and into Hart’s. Hart has played point guard at times throughout his college career and has proved to be a solid facilitator. He finished with five rebounds and four assists to round out his career day.
“This team just means a lot to me because I've been here for four years and I just want to do great things and win championships,” Hart said.
Maryland’s defense is its backbone.
It’s no secret to anyone who’s watched Maryland in action this season that the intensity the Terps’ defense plays with is remarkable. The communication, fast rotations and tough close-outs make it difficult for any team to score on Maryland.
That was the case for a reeling Penn State group that was befuddled by Maryland’s active hands in the early going. Penn State scored just six points in the opening 12 minutes of the game. Maryland got into its effective full-court press to start the game and never relented, pressuring the Nittany Lions after made baskets.
Penn State committed 13 turnovers that led to 17 Maryland points. While Maryland struggled to score itself for stretches of the first half, its defense tempered Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are the best 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten and they showed why Saturday. Penn State knocked down 12 threes on 46% shooting. Penn State’s hot shooting allowed it to stick around in the second half, but Maryland locked in defensively when it needed too.
It wasn’t the cleanest defensive performance, but Willard said the plan was to force Penn State to shoot twos. Penn State shot 53 shots, 26 of which were threes.
Allowing 68 points to Penn State is not particularly noteworthy for Maryland, but it’s the defensive stretches where Maryland limited the Nittany Lions that led it to victory. Maryland wins games because of its defense and if the Terps are going to make a postseason run, the key will be the defensive side of the ball.