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Maryland basketball outlasts Penn State, 66-59, in Big Ten opener

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The Terps overcame the turnover bug and a halftime deficit to start 1-0 in conference play.

Maryland basketball Aaron Wiggins vs. Penn State Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

With Maryland men’s basketball seemingly limping to the finish line against Penn State, Anthony Cowan Jr. took control. The junior hit two three-pointers late in the shot clock in the final minutes, giving the Terps just a big enough cushion in a 66-59 win.

After not seeing much time on the court together Wednesday night, Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando paced Maryland’s offense. Smith had 16 points and eight rebounds, while Fernando added 12 and 13 of his own. It was Fernando’s third straight double-double; he’s the first Terp to do that since Jordan Williams in 2011. Cowan’s late threes pushed him into double figures, and he finished with 15 points and four assists.

Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves dominated the first-half scoring for Penn State, scoring 10 and 17 over the first 20 minutes before finishing with 19 and 17, respectively. Rasir Bolton picked up more of the load in the second half to finish with 15 points.

Maryland shot 48.9 percent from the field thanks to a 58 percent second-half performance and also won the rebounding battle 40-28, but was hamstrung by turnovers once again. While Penn State shot just 39.7 percent from the field, it forced 17 turnovers and scored 18 points off of them. The Terps made up for their sloppy play by getting to the foul line, going 18-of-25 from the foul line compared to Penn State’s 4-of-6.

Maryland jumped out to an early 12-3 lead, and it looked like the confidence carried over from Wednesday’s loss to No. 4 Virginia. But as Penn State got into the flow of the game and denied looks inside, the Nittany Lions crawled back and eventually took the lead. Penn State went on a 10-0 run to take a 13-12 lead with 9:43 remaining in the first half, but Aaron Wiggins answered back with a three to give Maryland the lead back.

The Terps would only hit one field goal the rest of the half, as ball movement stagnated and neither Fernando or Smith could get going. The Nittany Lions seemed to be getting more calls over this stretch too, and Maryland’s frustration on offense carried over to the other end of the floor, where Penn State took a 29-21 lead with 3:18 remaining in the half. The Terps had no answer for Reaves or Stevens, who combined for 27 of the Nittany Lions’ 31 first half points.

With Maryland’s offense ice-cold, the Terps took advantage of getting in the double bonus with eight minutes remaining in the half. Maryland hit nine free throws in the last four minutes of the half, and went 13-of-17 in the first 20 minutes. A late 9-2 run cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to 31-30 at halftime.

The Terps jumped on Penn State to start the second half, turning a deficit into a 39-33 lead in just two minutes. Maryland pushed its lead up to eight, but like in the first half, the Nittany Lions scratched their way back and answered with a 9-0 run to take a 48-47 lead with 10:37 to go. Once again, Wiggins stopped a Penn State run, hitting a jumper for the Terps’ first basket in over three minutes.

Both teams traded baskets for the rest of the game, with Maryland occasionally getting a few more shots to fall to take a slight lead. The Terps pushed the lead to six on a desperation three from Cowan with 2:14 to go, but Penn State cut the lead to three with 1:01 remaining.

Another three from Cowan pushed Maryland’s lead to five with 34 seconds left, and the Terps got stops and hit enough free throws to seal the deal.

Three things to know

  1. Anthony Cowan had an answer when Maryland needed one. Even though Fernando has been the Terps best player, this team can’t survive many off nights from its point guard. He picked up a struggling offense down the stretch including an absurd deep three-pointer with less than a minute to go.
  2. Turnovers are officially a concern. The Terps turned it over 17 times, and have had double-digit turnovers in every game this season. Penn State came into this game ranked eighth in KenPom’s defensive efficiency, but only 68th in opponent turnover percentage. Cowan and Fernando didn’t look on the same wavelength multiple time for the first time all year, which definitely contributed to some of the offensive struggles.
  3. Maryland desperately needs a deeper bench. Once again, the Terps’ top six played the lion’s share of minutes. Besides Wiggins, Lindo was the only other bench player to touch the floor in the second half. Maryland looked gassed by the end of the game, and the lack of bench minutes could easily come back to haunt them as Big Ten play heats up.
Via StatBroadcast