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Maryland men’s basketball vs Penn State preview: What to know

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The Terps look to get their second consecutive Big Ten win for the first time this season.

Purdue v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Maryland men’s basketball will look to funnel its success into a second consecutive win as the Terps travel to face Penn State Friday.

The Terrapins fought until the final buzzer against No. 24 Purdue Tuesday, coming out with a 61-60 victory. The win marked the team’s fourth over an AP Top 25 team this season, which has brought a high level of confidence to the team as it looks to turn a corner.

“We said a month ago, ‘Hey, we got some young guys, we got a lot of guys coming back that we just want to make better. We want to make our team better,’” head coach Mark Turgeon said Thursday. “And we feel like we’re doing that and I think guys are gaining confidence because of it and I think they’re enjoying it a little bit more because they’re having fun playing.”

After facing eight ranked teams in their last 10 games, the Terps’ schedule is starting to turn a corner, with just one more ranked team on the remaining schedule. Friday’s matchup against Penn State, sitting between No. 24 Purdue and No. 7 Ohio State in a six-day span, presents itself as a classic trap game.

“We look at every game the same, that we’re just gonna play hard, play our game and just control the things we can control. So when we do that, then we are really good,” forward Donta Scott said. “But not playing a ranked team, it’s not gonna change how we play.”

Maryland has lost its last four trips to State College, Pennsylvania, last winning there in February 2015. In a season with so many question marks, the Terps need to key in and focus on this contest.

Tipoff between Maryland and Penn State is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Penn State (6-8, 3-7 Big Ten)

2019-20 record: 21-10, 11-9 Big Ten

Interim head coach Jim Ferry is in his first season captaining the Nittany Lion program in what would be his fourth year on the Penn State staff. His main role in the program to this point had been running the offense.

Ferry replaced the fiery Pat Chambers, who resigned just before this season after an internal investigation revealed improper conduct. This would have been Chambers’s 10th season at Penn State.

Players to know

Myreon Jones, junior guard, 6-foot-3, 180 lbs., No. 0 — After being the right-hand man of Lamar Stevens last season, Myreon Jones has exploded on the scene for Penn State as a junior. So far this season, Jones has averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 30.3 minutes per game, while also shooting 43.2% from three-point range.

Izaiah Brockington, junior guard, 6-foot-4, 200 lbs., No. 12 — Brockington has worked to basically duplicate Jones on the court, as the two lead a consistent back court attack. So far in 2020-21, Brockington has ranked second on the team with 14.7 points and 30 minutes per game.

Last season, Brockington served a sixth-man role, scoring in double figures 13 times.

John Harrar, senior forward, 6-foot-9, 240 lbs., No. 21 — Harrar got his start working inside for Penn State last last season, starting in 14 of the last 15 contests. In his senior season, Harrar has started every game, and while he averages just 8.6 points per game, he leads the team with 8.1 rebounds per game. Outside of Harrar, Penn State’s next-best rebounder is Brockington with 4.6 boards per contest.

Strength

Turnover margin. Despite having a rather lackluster defense, Penn State takes better care of the ball on offense, allowing very little extra chances for opponents. The Nittany Lions have a turnover margin of 2.71 per game, but do turn the ball over 11.8 times per games. They also thrive off of their transition game, as they force opponents into 14.5 turnovers per game and average 16.6 points off of those mistakes.

“One thing we always are [working on is] on shots, making sure everyone gets back, not sitting around. That’s specifically what we’re talking about for this next game because Penn State likes to run,” guard Reese Mona said. “So we’re gonna try to make sure we get back, give them little to no transition points. That’s a big part of their game.”

Weakness

Defense. Penn State ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 76 points per game to opponents so far this season. The Nittany Lions were able to out-pace some opponents during conference play, but their defense in league play hasn’t been able to help the offense at all.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland fair against another small team? With the Big Ten being a league of big men, Maryland has had its weaknesses exposed inside quite easily. Penn State is similar to Maryland however, with a lack of dominant height inside. Senior John Harrar is the biggest factor inside at 6-foot-9, meaning that Galin Smith should be able to battle easily and Chol Marial would have a clear advantage.

“We’re kind of mirror images of each other. They might have a little bit more team speed than we do, but yeah, it’s very similar teams,” Turgeon said. “...Every game’s a challenge, every game is a little bit different in our league, and it’s no different with Penn State. And we just got to one, play our game, and then adapt to what they’re trying to do against us.”

2. Will Mark Turgeon look to use the bench more? While playing strong opponents and with March around the corner, the use of bench players has shrunk. Against Purdue Tuesday, Turgeon utilized just nine players, including center Chol Marial and Mona, who each logged just two minutes. The seven-man rotation of players has worked at times, but with three games in six days, including two in the next four, now would be the time to spread the wealth.

3. Can Maryland avoid another sad trip to Happy Valley? Traveling to face Penn State in basketball should be an easy task for Maryland, but heading to State College has brought just sadness to the Terps in recent years. Maryland has lost its last four trips to Penn State, with the last win coming on February 14, 2015. With No. 7 Ohio State heading to College Park Monday, the Terps have to make sure they don’t overlook Penn State and falter on the road.

“No game is easy to go away and win, I mean, even at home, but specifically there, I know I’ve never won, so I’m looking forward to try and get a win there,” Mona said. “But I think it’s just another road game, another road test that we’re going to take on and hopefully come back with a win.”