Wednesday night’s 60-55 Big Ten Conference loss at Northwestern notwithstanding, Maryland has made a nice late-season run to put itself in position to grab an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
That’s why the Terrapins’ final regular-season game against Penn State on Sunday night in College Park, Md., is vital.
Win and they can think about making plans for an extended stay in Indianapolis, site of the Big Ten’s tournament and then the NCAA Tournament. Lose and the Big Ten tourney becomes a potential eliminator for their NCAA hopes.
Maryland (15-11, 9-10) won five straight before stumbling at Northwestern, thanks largely to 15 turnovers and 42 percent shooting from the field.
“We got back to our inconsistencies when we weren’t a very good team,” Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said to The Washington Post.
Wasted in the loss was a splendid 26-point effort by Aaron Wiggins, who hit five 3-pointers. Darryl Morsell added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the rest of their teammates combined for 15 points and made a pitiful 5 of 27 field goals.
That included a 2-of-12 performance from Eric Ayala, who despite that outing remains the team’s leading scorer at 14.5 points per game. Wiggins averages 13.9 and Donta Scott contributes 11.3 points to go along with a team-high 6.7 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Penn State (9-13, 6-12) enters this one off one of its best games of the season, an 84-65 beatdown of struggling Minnesota at home Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions opened up a 46-28 halftime lead and dominated the boards 48-33 while collecting 19 assists.
“I think we looked extremely unselfish,” said Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry. “Guys were really just laying it out for each other. Guys really played hard for each other and you could see the passion, you could see the love. I really love this group going down the stretch right now.”
Five players scored in double figures for Penn State, led by Myreon Jones with 17 points. Seniors Trent Buttrick and John Harrar enjoyed successful final home games. Buttrick tied a career high with 13 points, while Harrar scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
The Nittany Lions are aiming for a season sweep of Maryland after winning 55-50 on Feb. 5 at home despite Ayala’s game-high 23 points.
–Field Level Media