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Maryland basketball comes up short at Penn State, falls 74-70

The Terps drop another close road game.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball went back on the road Wednesday night to take on Penn State in Happy Valley, and came away with another road loss. The Terps came up short in the final minute, losing 74-70.

Anthony Cowan led Maryland with 15 points and five assists. Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando and Jared Nickens each added 13 of their own, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Nittany Lions’ lights-out shooting. Lamar Stevens put up 25 points, while Tony Carr, Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins added 16, 14 and 11, respectively.

Maryland came out firing, scoring 20 points on 64 percent shooting from the field in just nine minutes.Huerter had seven points in this span, while Cowan had three of his own and two early assists. Though the Terps’ offense looked solid early on, the defense was suspect, specifically on Penn State’s Stevens. The sophomore forward had 11 points at the under-8 media timeout without having missed any of his five shots.

Maryland led by six twice early, but trailed 25-23 when Fernando threw down a thunderous right-handed dunk to tie the game. The teams went back and forth for the rest of the first half. The opening 20 minutes included six ties and six lead changes. Maryland’s seven first-half turnovers and shoddy rebounding nullified shooting 59 percent from the field and 57 percent from beyond the arc, Maryland trailed 41-35 at halftime.

The second half opened much like the first. A pair of Nickens three-pointers and another angry dunk from Fernando helped chip away at Penn State’s lead, but the Nittany Lions had an answer almost every time down the court.

A Morsell layup and a Cowan three cut the lead to just one with just under 14 minutes left, but Reaves threw down a tomahawk dunk to take momentum right back. A scoring drought followed, but the Terps caught a break when Stevens missed a dunk on a baseline drive. That chance was squandered when the rebound fell right to him and he was able to put in an easy layup to reclaim a six point lead.

Turnovers continued to be a problem in the second half, as both teams were still shooting above 50 percent, but Maryland couldn’t seem to hold onto the ball. Five turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the second half led to eight points for Penn State, which had increased its lead to as many as 10.

Even still, Maryland hung around. A Huerter floater cut the lead to five with just over a minute and a half left, Watkins missed a free throw on the other end and Nickens hit a three after a wild scramble to pull Maryland within three. But the Terps couldn’t get another bucket, and the Nittany Lions held on down the stretch for a four-point victory.

The Terps will be back in action Saturday at noon at home against Northwestern. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Three things to know

1. Turnovers plagued Maryland. The Terps shot the ball well Wednesday night, but Penn State was matching them shot for shot. 14 costly turnovers at inopportune times led directly to 23 points for the Nittany Lions.

2. Both teams shot the lights out. Maryland outshot Penn State, making buckets at a 54 percent clip. The Nittany Lions made 52 percent, but took six more thanks to fewer turnovers and more offensive rebounds. The two more shots they made turned out to be the difference.

3. Maryland’s big man depth is becoming an issue. With Michal Cekovsky still out, the two-man rotation of Fernando and Sean Obi is largely responsible for manning the center position. Fernando is still young and learning how to defend pick and rolls, but Obi is just too slow and not athletic enough to live outside the paint. Penn State took advantage of his lack of athleticism repeatedly, leading to several easy points in the paint.