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No Swan Song For The Ugly Duckling

The Lions are playing well enough to remain in contention for a post-season spot

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State needed a conference win and it got it on Friday night against a Maryland team that had trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Both sides fought hard to bring home the win but in the end the veterans of Penn State made the difference. What could be described as an ugly win could also be seen as a pivotal conference turn for Jim Ferry and his team.

Had the Lions lost it would have made the uphill climb that much more steep but with a conference record of 4-7, the team stays within reach of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Lions will travel to Michigan State and then face Nebraska at home before getting a rematch against the Buckeyes. Anything can happen in conference play but it would not be out of the question for the team to be able to win two of the next three games and get to a .500 record overall. If they were able to do that, they would likely be on the happy side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

John Harrar Makes Plays

What had been a 7 point lead with 9:40 on the clock evaporated into a single point two minutes later and then Izaiah Brockington missed a shot. Had Maryland got the rebound, which is typically the case as the defensive team naturally has an advantage, the lead could have swung back to the Terrapins.

Instead John Harrar got an offensive rebound, his third of four on the night, to get his team another offensive possession. Harrar then drew a foul and got to the free throw line, making both shots.

Maryland hit two free throws on the next trip down the court, cutting the lead to one for the last time but never regaining the lead. Harrar finished with 12 rebounds and 9 points and they all seemed to come at critical points in the game. Had he allowed Maryland to get the rebound the game could have gone differently for his team.

Harrar finished the game with more rebounds than the entire Terrapin front-court combined. He picked a great night to dominate the glass as the ball was not going in the hoop for either side.

Box Score

It’s hard not to miss the first two players in the score sheet, Myreon Jones and Seth Lundy. Their 2 for 17 from the field effort was not their best but Lundy did play solid defense on the post. Each player was productive enough to remain on the floor but not up to their typical level of play.

Jamari Wheeler hit 3-point shots early and often. Myles Dread ended a 12-point Maryland run with a deep ball. The pair finished 5 of 11 from behind the arc. The rest of the Penn State team was 0 for 12 and while the shots were mostly contested, on a typical night a few of the 12 shots would have gone into the basket.

It was a particularly cold shooting night and Maryland has no other way to win games besides playing shutdown defense. The numbers were ugly but the team was in search of a win, not a beauty pageant trophy.

With the strength of schedule for the Lions being in the top-10 nationally it will not matter where the wins come from. If the team can finish .500 or better it will have a shot to make the Big Dance.

Looking at the schedule moving forward, there are chances for the team to pick up wins. There is the possibility that the Lions will make up games against Michigan and Nebraska, but until the contests are rescheduled, we don’t know for sure that they will happen. Should both games be made up, a split would keep Penn State on pace.

Considering that Michigan is in the top-5 in the Net Rankings and has missed the past couple of weeks with a covid shutdown, it may not be possible or preferential for the game to be made up for the Lions. I’m sure Jim Ferry’s team will take any challenger but fans can hope for the easiest path, especially for a team that has had such a tough schedule to this point.