STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Three days after escaping a loss to Illinois, No. 4 Maryland men’s basketball is no longer undefeated after its road trip to Penn State.
The Nittany Lions — though favored in this game when tipoff arrived — handed the Terps 76-69 loss — their first of the season.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the contest.
1. The Terps struggled in the paint
After winning the opening tip, Penn State threw an alley-oop to forward Mike Watkins for an easy two-hand flush. The play, which occurred 16 seconds into the game, indicated what type of night it was going to be for Maryland as the Nittany Lions dominated inside — despite the Terps having a height advantage.
“I thought Penn State was terrific from the first play,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “They ran a lob on us. We saw it coming — couldn’t do anything about it.”
Maryland only had 16 points in the paint — a season low.
In the final minute before halftime, Makhi Mitchell, who made the fifth start of his career in place of sophomore guard Darryl Morsell, was able to gather two offensive rebounds over a sea of Nittany Lions. However, the freshman had two chances at a left handed layup and couldn’t convert either.
Morsell eventually bailed out Mitchell after his second attempt.
Well this was....... something.— Sean Montiel (@SeanMMontiel) December 11, 2019
Darryl Morsell gets the bucket after an unconventional string of possessions. pic.twitter.com/eD2mTzrLhP
A big part of Penn State’s paint dominance came from Watkins, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also had four of the team’s 10 blocks, which is the most the Terps have allowed an opponent to get against them this season.
“Mike Watkins, he’s a big presence down there,” Eric Ayala said. “I think we did a bad job of not shot faking and kicking out.”
Despite notching his seventh double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Jalen Smith only had two points on three shots in the paint. He was the only double-digit rebounder for the Terps.
2. Maryland appears limited offensively
For much of the night, Maryland appeared lost on offense.
Near the 4:30 mark in the first half, freshman Donta Scott jump-stopped in the middle of the paint and lightly tossed an underhanded pass to a cutting Wiggins. The sophomore guard attempted a right handed floater but missed. As Turgeon watched on the sideline, he raised his arms in a mix of confusion and frustration.
“Guys, we’ve played six [games] in 13 [days]. That was a tough stretch for us, OK?,” Turgeon said. “So we haven’t really had a lot of practice time — and I’m not making excuses, better team won — but we have like five plays that we can run.
“Now we’ve got finals, and now we’ve got some time. And hopefully that’ll help us, hopefully we can get a lot better offensively, quit dribbling so much, share the ball a little bit better and be a better offensive team.”
A lot of the Terps’ struggles came from not distributing the ball. While the Nittany Lions had 19 assists on the night, Maryland only had nine, which ties a the season low that had previously been set against Harvard on Nov. 29. But their 20 turnovers on Wednesday produced a season-low 0.45 assist-to-turnover ratio.
That's a season-high 18 turnovers for Maryland. Rather suboptimal. pic.twitter.com/1qpMubFCoo— Sean Montiel (@SeanMMontiel) December 11, 2019
“We’ve just got to take better care of the ball — especially on the road,” Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “If you have 20 turnovers, you don’t have a good chance at winning the game.”
3. Ricky Lindo Jr. saw a lot of time
Since starting against George Mason on Nov. 22, Lindo hasn’t seen much time in Turgeon’s rotations. The sophomore has averaged just 3:15 minutes in the past four contests.
But against the Nittany Lions, Lindo was on the floor for a total of 13 minutes — 11 of which came in the second half.
“I thought Ricky Lindo was terrific. For a guy that hasn’t played the last couple games, he played like a veteran,” Turgeon said. “Right before half, we went with a defensive lineup — Ricky Lindo, Darryl Morsell, [Aaron Wiggins], [Smith], and Anthony — [our] five best defenders. [We] started the second half that way and we defended a little bit better in that stretch.”
Lindo, who finished with two points from a pair of free throws and one rebound, spent time guarding Penn State’s best player Lamar Stevens. He played a significant role in limiting the senior to only two made field goals in the second half.
“He hasn’t played in a while and came in with a great attitude,” Cowan said. “He gave us great minutes on the defensive end — something we need from him.”