With the shot clock dwindling down, Penn State (10-13, 7-12 B1G) forward Seth Lundy caught a pass on the right wing and quickly gathered. He held his hand in the air as the ball trickled through the net, lifting the Penn State bench and fans into euphoria and the Maryland (15-12, 9-11 B1G) bench and faithful into despair.
That basket gave the Nittany Lions the cushion they needed down the stretch extending the lead to 61-57 with 32 seconds remaining in Maryland’s 66-61 loss. Maryland had no answer for the sophomore forward throughout, as he finished with 31 points.
“You have losses in life that are devastating, this is one of them,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “A lot of tears in the locker room. We expected to win the game and it just snowballed and we really couldn’t stop it.”
Lundy scored 12 of the Nittany Lions’ final 18 points, while Myreon Jones also contributed 17 points. Maryland was also outrebounded 39-31 overall, surrendering 10 offensive rebounds.
The Terps offensive futility, with one made field goal in the final 4:23, compounded by the Nittany Lions’ efficient offense down the stretch allowed them to complete the comeback after trailing by 16 in the first half. Aaron Wiggins led the Terps with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Eric Ayala added 14 points and Darryl Morsell chipped in 10.
“I thought we over dribbled and under passed tonight,” Turgeon said. “Really if we just keep guarding, we win the game. We were up 55-49 at the last media timeout and we never really guarded the rest of the way.”
Like its previous two contests Maryland got off to a smoldering start, blitzing the Nittany Lions with 12 consecutive points in the opening 4:32. Penn State quickly responded with a 9-2 run, single-handedly orchestrated by Lundy as the Terps struggled to protect the ball, unable to navigate the Nittany Lions’ pressure.
As Penn State gained brief momentum, Maryland transitioned its offensive attack to playing through the low post and Galin Smith. Finding success in the low post, the Terps continued to attack the basket, which led to open perimeter opportunities. That success at the basket was highlighted by a ferocious alley-oop jam from Hakim Hart on a feed from Morsell, which extended Maryland’s lead to 13.
However, the pesky Nittany Lions answered back with a 7-0 run keyed by triples from Lundy and Jones that galvanized Penn State’s offense. That spurt prompted a timeout from Turgeon with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
Out of the timeout, the Terps went to Morsell who delivered back-to-back buckets giving them a 10-point advantage heading into the break with some newfound momentum.
Unlike the first half, it was Penn State who started out hot in the opening couple of minutes energized by its tenacious defense and three-point shooting. Lundy and Jones spearheaded the Nittany Lions perimeter attack, as the Terps didn’t do a strong enough job closing out on shooters cutting the deficit to 39-36 with 14:10 remaining.
However, Maryland mounted a much-needed response, orchestrating an 11-0 run over the next 2:46. Wiggins started the run with a wing three, while Jairus Hamilton provided some nice low post defense on John Harrar with a strong block.
The Terps fed off the energy of their defense as Donta Scott buried back-to-back triples bringing the bench and the small XFINITY Center crowd to their feet with rejuvenated momentum. Penn State missed nine of its 10 shots over that period, six of which came from behind the arc settling for contested perimeter opportunities.
Catalyzed by their tenacious defense, the Nittany Lions mounted a response with an 11-0 spurt of their own, which trimmed Maryland’s lead to three. Harrar fueled the run on the interior battling for post positioning, notching four points during that span. Lundy and Myles Dread also chipped in baskets over that stretch.
Hamilton responded with a three for Maryland pushing the lead to six, but that proved to be Maryland’s second to last made field goal in the final 6:11. Lundy began his late-game groove with a tough lefty finish off the glass and quickly followed that up with a three, which trimmed Maryland’s lead to 57-54 with 2:40 remaining.
At that point, momentum continued to swing in Penn State’s favor as the missed shots began to pile up for Maryland. With 1:23 remaining Lundy meandered his way around the Terps defense and lofted a runner in the lane, which gave the Nittany Lions a 58-57 lead, their first of the contest.
“We let them get in the paint too often and they got easy layups,” Wiggins said. “They got momentum going making tough shots and getting to the basket.”
On the ensuing possession, Ayala was unable to convert on the isolation opportunity as his mid-range jumper found the front rim and rattled out. Penn State’s next possession they seized complete control on Lundy’s aforementioned three, which sent the Nittany Lion bench and faithful into hysteria.
Maryland’s second consecutive loss embodied similar themes to when they’ve struggled this season, stagnation offensively, porous rebounding and lapses defensively.
Now the Terps will enter the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 8 seed facing off against No. 9 seed Michigan State in the first round on Thursday.
“It’s senior night you’re supposed to send the seniors out on a good note,” Wiggins said. “We wanted to end it on a good night and just didn’t finish the game. Got to put it past us and be prepared for the tournament ahead of us.”