Penn State’s NCAA Tournament hopes are in the miracle zone at the moment. The Nittany Lions would effectively need to win out in order to comfortably find themselves in the field. Any other scenario, and we’re looking at deep tournament runs, if not outright winning the thing, as a requirement for the Tournament. Luckily, they have enough of a cushion that, worse comes to worst, merely three more wins still leaves the NIT on the table.
Penn State started this game quite poorly, as Maryland turned the Lions over 10 times in the first half alone. The Terps would open up a 12-point lead off the bevy of turnovers, and looked well in control of the game early.
The Lions, to their credit, responded by erasing the deficit, but, like we’ve seen for the past four times now, the opponent simply couldn’t miss, and the Lions simply couldn’t stop the Terps as the seconds ticked away.
The Lions would actually find themselves with the lead a couple of times in the second half, but every time they did, Maryland had two, three, or four quick buckets to put the lead back at one, four, and ultimately the 12-points that was too much to overcome with less than three minutes left on the game.
Again, Penn State will need a miracle to make the tournament at this rate. But, if they can find a way to win three more games down the stretch, that would mean at worst a .500 finish for the season, and possibly an invite to the NIT. Ah, what if...
Player of the Game
Kanye Clary - 17 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal
This was Clary’s coming out party, as the guard was all over the place for the Lions. Of all players who had more than 10 minutes of action, Clary was the only one to not turn the ball over at all, and he led the team in point with the aforementioned 17. We’ve seen the freshmen show their abilities at different points in the season, so this was Clary’s chance to showcase what he’s got.
Welcome back, Dread - Myles Dread went 4-of-8 from the field, 3-of-7 from three in this game, for 11 points. After the past month, it’s nice to see him find his stroke again. Who knows, maybe things fare a little differently had he not ultimately fouled out of the game.
Speaking of fouls - You know the drill, “when the announcers agree with me, blah blah blah.” It’s not even about what difference it would have made in the game (like Dread not fouling out on having the audacity to exist near a Maryland player), as Penn State needs to fix its defense first and foremost. It’s about actually calling a clean game when the Lions are involved, for once.
Three games - For a school that labels itself a basketball program, you’d think the all time series would resemble what Penn State has in football. But no, Maryland has a three game lead on the series, which sits at 16-13 after this contest. Imagine if Penn State were any good at basketball!
Penn State returns home to face the one Big Ten team they beat on the road in Illinois. Can the Lions salvage what’s left of the season? We’ll find out on Tuesday, February 14th, at 7:00 PM Eastern. Game is on ESPNU.