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Maryland basketball turned in an abysmal performance at a bad time vs. Penn State

The Terps were bad all around in State College, making the road to a double-bye a bit tougher.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball was embarrassed by Penn State in every aspect of the game Wednesday night, as the No. 17 Terps suffered a 78-61 blowout loss in State College. The Nittany Lions took charge early and were never challenged, leading by double digits for the final 30:35 of game time.

Nothing went right for the Terps. They missed their last 16 threes to finish 1-of-17. They turned the ball over 17 times, and Penn State turned those into 26 points. It took more than 30 minutes for a Maryland player to reach double figures. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Bruno Fernando had five turnovers each. It was just ugly all around.

Maryland has started poorly before, but never like this.

Ice-cold shooting starts? Yep. A steaming heap of turnovers? Totally. An early double-digit deficit? Nothing out of the ordinary.

But Maryland has usually found something resembling a rhythm by the midway point of these first halves. Or it’s made some sort of run. Not on Wednesday. Not even close.

Pick a basketball thing and Penn State probably destroyed Maryland at it in the first half. The Nittany Lions went 16-of-31 from the floor and 5-of-11 from deep; the Terps were 9-of-29 and 1-of-10. Maryland committed eight turnovers while forcing three, and Penn State led 12-0 in points off giveaways. The Nittany Lions even outrebounded Maryland 20-16 and led 10-4 in second-chance points.

Maryland scored consecutive buckets exactly once in the half, as a pair of Aaron Wiggins jumpers turned an 18-7 lead to 18-11. For approximately four seconds, it looked like Maryland might be finding its footing. But then Penn State went on a 9-0 run to more than double the lead. The Terps wouldn’t get closer than 14 after that, and by halftime, it was a 22-point game.

This was over incredibly early.

Maryland came out in the second half like it knew it was going to lose. The Terps had four points and four turnovers in the first four minutes of the period, and Mark Turgeon yanked all five starters, trotting out a Wiggins/Serrel Smith Jr./Ricky Lindo/Joshua Tomaic/Reese Mona lineup. This unit wasn’t much better, but it wasn’t noticeably worse, which on most nights would be more of an accomplishment.

No matter who was in, Maryland kept on clanking threes and giving the ball away. Penn State led by 29 three different times. The Terps did finally make something resembling a charge while my cable went out, scoring nine unanswered points to trim the lead to 16. But they didn’t get closer than that.

It’s not a killer, but the Terps did themselves no favors.

Maryland doesn’t have to worry about missing the NCAA Tournament right now. But it is fighting for a top-four seed and double bye in the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin, the primary challenger for that spot, lost Tuesday night at Indiana in double overtime, putting the Terps a full game clear. Now the two are tied in the loss column, and Maryland still has No. 9 Michigan on its remaining slate.

The first tiebreaker for seeding purposes is head-to-head record, but the Terps and Badgers split their season series. The second tiebreaker is record against the league’s first-place team, and it’s hard to say who that’ll be right now. Both teams went 0-1 against Michigan State. Maryland has a win over Purdue. Wisconsin has a win over Michigan (whom Maryland plays Sunday). So Maryland’s not exactly at an advantage or disadvantage here.

This loss doesn’t derail the season, and the Terps can still get the double bye. But before Wednesday evening, Maryland controlled its own destiny in that regard. Now it doesn’t. And with the defeat coming in such emphatic fashion, this visit to State College couldn’t have gone much worse.