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Penn State 59, No. 24 Maryland 66: Once Again, Close At Xfinity

The Nittany Lions, as they have for five seasons, came just close enough at Xfinity Center.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014, Terps fans envisioned a reality where their football team competed with Penn State, while their basketball team simply dominated the wholly inferior counterpart. In their first season of competition, it looked like their wish would come true. Maryland came to Happy Valley and stunned a Nittany Lion squad still reeling from crippling sanctions, then their basketball team proceeded sweep Penn State. “Just like football” chants were audibly heard after the first Victory at Xfinity Center, Maryland fans reminding the Nittany Lions that they were here to dominate both sports.

Reality, of course, has not worked exactly like this for Maryland. The losses in football have grown more and more lopsided as the seasons go on, while the basketball teams continue to have close, competitive contests that come down to the wire. Every victory in the series has been by six points or fewer, and while today’s loss was by seven points, it was still a valiant effort by the Lions.

The Terrapins started out on fire, making just about every shot they took, on their way to an early 12-3 lead. It looked like Maryland was going to run away with it, until Josh Reaves went HAM and took over the game, scoring nine straight points on three triples to close the gap. Before you knew it, it was Penn State who had the lead, and the game went on from there.

The second half saw some of the same dynamic as the first, with Maryland starting out on fire en route to a 6-point lead. Penn State battled, like they did in the first half, and fought their way back to take a lead of their own. But this time around the Terrapins were able to fend off the Nittany Lions and hold to that 6-point cushion.

The series stands at 2-5 after this game. On paper, that doesn’t look good. Yet, the way the games have gone, it doesn’t look like Maryland fans are going to get their wish. Penn State is here to stay, and they’ll continue to be a thorn on the Terps’ side for perpetuity. See you in State College, Terps.

Four Factors Analysis

It’s no surprise to see the lopsided free throw rate in favor of the Terrapins. Every game played at Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the conference has been heavily in their favor, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Looking at all the other stats, it’s hard to argue that Maryland getting to the line at an exponentially greater rate than Penn State didn’t have a direct correlation to the score, because it did.

Player of the Game

Reaves was the sole reason Penn State was able to get back into the game in the first half. He scored the first nine points of the game for the Nittany Lions and was all over the place from there on out, as he usually is. He cooled off a bit in the second half, but was still the spark plug that kept the machine going.

Random Observations

Back Breaking Threes - Like a bad dream, the Terrapins hit a back breaking three at the worst time. Penn State had cut the lead down to two with under a minute left, and an Anthony Cowan three, from what seemed like the state of Virginia, expanded that lead to five, which was then seven, once the Nittany Lions had to heave threes to try to come back.

Cold shooting at the wrong time - To make matters worse, Penn State had one of their patented cold streaks at the end of the game, where they saw plenty of opportunities to close out the game slip through their hands, or rather, just barely miss the rim.

Mike Watkins isn’t ready just yet - Ready to play, yes, but Watkins is not yet in the physical state to play full games. To make matters worse, he picked up four fouls relatively early, and barely saw the floor after his last foul. The more games he plays though, the better the shape he’ll be in.

Looking Ahead

Penn State goes back to the Bryce Jordan Center to host the Indiana Hoosiers on Tuesday, December 4th. Game’s at 7 PM on BTN.