Maryland basketball dismantled by Penn State in regular season finale

A clash for the 11 and 12 seeds of the 2024 Big Ten Tournament.

The 15-15 Maryland Terrapins (7-12 B1G) traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, on Sunday for their last game of the regular season against the 14-16 Penn State Nittany Lions (8-11 B1G) in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Terps looked to end the season on a high note after suffering two straight home losses handed by Northwestern and most recently Indiana. Penn State was in a similar position, losing its two most recent games to Iowa and Minnesota. 

Penn State was successful in defending its home court, sending the Terps back to College Park with a 69-85 loss.

Maryland’s starters included guards DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahmir Young alongside forwards Jordan Geronimo, Donta Scott and Mady Traore filling in for Julian Reese, who was sidelined due to an ankle injury suffered in practice. For Penn State, guards Ace Baldwin Jr., D’Marco Dunn and Nick Kern took the court first with forwards Zach Hicks and Qudus Wahab. 

“[Reese] tweaked his ankle on Wednesday. We took two days off, and it wasn’t anything serious, but when someone logs that many minutes all season long, you gotta make sure you protect your guy,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said post-game. 

Despite only trailing Penn State by five points halfway through the opening period, Maryland saw a less-than-efficient start by shooting for 29% from the field and suffering five turnovers (a stark contrast to Penn State which only lost one possession). Baldwin Jr. led the charge for Penn State, earning seven points in the first 10 minutes and allowing Maryland to have the lead for just the opening two.

By the time five minutes remained in the first half, Donta Scott tied the game with a layup inside the paint. On the very next possession, freshman Jamie Kaiser Jr. came off the bench to hand Maryland its second lead with a three-pointer. The points capped an 8-0 run for the Terps.

A responding three-pointer from Puff Johnson put Penn State back on top, and the Nittany Lions built off the momentum to enter the half ahead at a 36-32 score. 

Handling a majority of Julian Reese’s role, sophomore Caelum Swanton-Rodger saw 11 minutes in the opening half, accounting for five points with three foul shots and a layup on top of two rebounds. Maryland’s rebound leader in the first half? Jahmir Young with five, who also led Maryland in points at the break with 11. 

“I thought Cal [Swanton-Rodger] came in and gave us good minutes, but once he got tired, since he’s not used to playing those minutes, that’s kind of where our breakdowns happened,” Willard said. 

As the clock neared 13 minutes in the second half, Penn State created a 10-0 run to pull ahead by 12 points and force a timeout from Willard, leaving Maryland with just one more timeout to spend.

Willard would use it at 5:27 with Maryland still down by 12. Two minutes later, Swanton-Rodger left the court with five personal fouls, and Puff Johnson’s free throw made it a 17-point game.

Down by 16 when time expired, Maryland received its seventh straight loss in State College in the absence of Julian Reese.

Maryland’s point-leaders were Jahmir Young (16 points), Jamie Kaiser Jr. (13 points), Noah Batchelor and DeShawn Harris-Smith who each tied with nine. For Penn State, Qudus Wahab led with 19 points and 15 rebounds in front of Ace Baldwin Jr. (17 points, 11 assists), RayQuawndis Mitchell (14 points) and Puff Johnson (13 points).

“I think the frustration level has really hit these guys,” Willard said. “We missed a couple shots early in the game, and that has really been our M.O. all year, but I’m really pleased with the young guys who are out there playing.”.

Officially now the twelfth seed, the Terps move on to the Big Ten Tournament to face No. 13 Rutgers on Wednesday.