Penn State stays hot, beats Maryland
Lamar Stevens feels like he's playing his most consistent basketball right now, a bad omen for upcoming opponents considering Penn State expects its hybrid forward to do a little bit of everything.
Just like he did Wednesday.
Stevens scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting with 14 in the second half to lift Penn State over Maryland 74-70.
“Lamar really stepped up for us,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We needed every one of those points that he had tonight.”
Tony Carr added 16 points, Josh Reaves scored 14, and Mike Watkins added 11 for the Nittany Lions (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference), who equaled their previous best mark for conference victories under Chambers.
“The best teams always find ways to win,” Stevens said. “We locked down when we had to, got huge stops, huge rebounds, and I think that's a huge step for this team.”
With Maryland (16-10, 5-8) up 20-14 midway through the first half, Stevens nailed his first of two 3-pointers to spark a quick 9-0 run that helped Penn State take control.
He rolled layups off his fingers and sank midrange jumpers on multiple back-to-back possessions in the second half, where he scored 11 of his team's first 20 points.
“He made some incredible, incredible shots,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “He was terrific, he was so efficient.”
Stevens added four rebounds, two assists and was 3-for-4 on free throws with all three makes coming in the final 5 minutes, 48 seconds as Maryland threatened.
Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points, and Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando added 13 apiece.
Darryl Morsell had 10 points for the Terrapins, who cut a 10-point deficit with 8:11 to play to just three with 1:13 left.
“I didn't think we competed in the first half defensively,” Turgeon said. “I thought in the second half, we were really trying hard.”
The Terrapins' disappointing season continues and they have dropped to 7-7 since stalwart forward Justin Jackson's season was ended by a torn shoulder ligament in late December. Although they shot better than their season average, the Terrapins were badly outplayed in the paint, getting outscored 32-22 and outrebounded 27-23.
The Nittany Lions are playing an exciting brand of basketball of late. They have a combined 22 dunks over their last three home games and opponents are finding it hard to play fast against a team that thrives on speed.
While Stevens led the offense, guards Reaves, Shep Garner and Jamari Wheeler helped keep Cowan Jr. and Huerter from doing major damage.
The Terrapin duo entered the Bryce Jordan Center averaging a combined 30 points per game. And while they got close with 28, they combined for six of their team's 14 turnovers as Penn State dialed up the pressure.
“They really pressured us,” Turgeon said. “I thought (Reaves and Wheeler) had a lot to do with it.”
Stevens called Reaves the “heart and soul” of the team and there's no question Penn State looks like a different squad with the stingy, opportunistic defender in the lineup.
Penn State is 4-1 since his return from an academic-related suspension.
“He's going to defend and rebound,” Chambers said. “He'll guard the best player on the other team, and when he has opportunities to score and make plays, which he usually does, he's that guy that does it for us.”
Reaves led the team with nine rebounds with six in the defensive end.
While Penn State has leaned on Reaves since his return, his presence hasn't prevented Chambers from keeping the speedy Wheeler in the rotation. Wheeler played 11 minutes and chipped in three assists.