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Maryland men’s lacrosse opens Big Ten Tournament play against No. 8 Penn State

The regular season is done, and now the real fun begins.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In the 115th installment of ‘The Rivalry’, Maryland thrashed Johns Hopkins 12-5 to win the Big Ten regular season outright.

Maryland didn’t control its own destiny, however, as Ohio State’s tiebreaker over the Terps prompted a need for Rutgers to upset the Buckeyes. Thanks to an overtime clincher by the Scarlet Knights, the Terps’ win over Hopkins gave them a 4-1 conference record, sole possession of the top spot in the conference and the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

They’ll take on No. 8 Penn State, who’s coming off a win over Michigan and enters the postseason with just two losses on the season.

Game Info

When and where: Thursday, May 4, 5:00 p.m. ET, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

How to watch: Big Ten Network

No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-2, 3-2)

Last meeting: The narrative was quite different the last time Maryland took on Penn State. The Nittany Lions were then the No. 1 team in the country and possessed one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Tillman’s defense controlled them to just six goals by halftime, and the offense looked like a unit that found its identity once again. The Terps went on to win 15-11.

With another chance at Maryland, the Nittany Lions get a shot at redemption.

Two weeks ago, head coach Jeff Tambroni’s team was 1-2 in conference play, facing off against a Rutgers team with an identical conference record. The loser of that game would be bounced from the Big Ten Tournament, and would leave their chances of making the NCAA Tournament up to fate. The Nittany Lions have taken care of business since then, winning their last two regular season games, and now control their own postseason destiny.

Players to watch

No. 3 Mac O’Keefe, freshman, attack. While the young attackman finished with a hat trick against Maryland, it’s a tad misleading. O’Keefe netted his third goal when the game was well beyond reach for Penn State, as Maryland’s defense had negated him from the offense. Still, he’s Penn State’s best pure scorer with 46 goals on the season, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds in his first taste of postseason lacrosse.

No. 1 Grant Ament, sophomore, attack. Ament finished with a team-high four points in the first meeting, and he’s the best all-around offensive player Tambroni has. Ament watched as the Terps massacred the Nittany Lions last year, and might use that as extra fuel to take down the tournament’s No. 1 seed.

No. 40 Gerard Arceri, freshman, faceoff. He didn’t have his best day at the draw in Maryland Stadium, going just 5-for-15 and having to split reps with senior Billy Lombardi. That being said, he’s still one of the best faceoffs in the country, with a punishing .625 winning percentage — good for fifth-best in the country.

Storylines to follow

Same teams, different expectations.

The two met last year in the Big Ten Tournament under the same circumstances, with Penn State the No. 4 seed and Maryland the No. 1. The Nittany Lions were a fringe NCAA Tournament team in 2016, but saw their hopes of the big dance vanish when they were outmatched 16-9 by the Terps in the opening round.

Many fans of the lacrosse world find it hard to take an up-and-coming program like Penn State as a true threat to a blue-blood like Maryland, but they shouldn’t. The Nittany Lions have a high scoring offense, a stud between the pipes in freshman Colby Kneese and the added fuel to the fire to beat Maryland. There’s a reason this team has just two losses on the season, and it will be a tough matchup.

The play of Matt Rambo.

The senior has already become the all-time leading points scorer in program history, and he’s not done yet.

Rambo went ballistic during the Terps’ 2016 tournament run. Starting with a hat trick and two assists against Penn State, he would end up totaling 17 goals and 17 assists in the postseason.

What’s to be seen from Dan Morris?

From a year-long perspective, Morris has been solid for the Terps. While he’s battled through some erratic play, he’s done exactly what Tillman has asked of him and has made a number of saves in the biggest of moments.

But now the setting is different. For his own sake, it’s important to have a good conference tournament, as it’s a perfect warmup for what the stakes are like in the postseason. The Terps will make the NCAA Tournament even if they lose to Penn State, but after that there’s nothing left after a loss.