Door analogies are used quite frequently in sports, in regards to teams achieving their ultimate goals. For the past month, the door to Penn State’s NCAA Tournament hopes has been opening, and closing, and opening, and closing once again, for the better part of the past two months.
Penn State spent January trading wins and losses, barely keeping them afloat in the conversation. All hope was lost when The Lions lost four straight to begin the month of February, only to regain momentum with three consecutive victories. Then, when things looked smooth to end the season, the Nittany Lions blew a 19-point lead at home against Rutgers to just about end their hopes once more. Door closed.
Apparently, the closed door wasn’t locked. Because the Lions came back twice (once in regulation, again in overtime) against Northwestern three days later to open the door yet again! Now, with the analogous door wide open, all Penn State needs to do is walk in. No pressure.
Scouting the Opposition
Penn State didn’t play Maryland badly, per se, in the first meeting back at the Xfinity Center. The biggest deficiency were the lapses on defense for two key stretches that gave the Terps the cushion they needed to win. The Lions, even in their loss to Rutgers, have played much better defense than they had been during the four-game losing streak, and, combined with how dreadful Maryland has been on the road —The Terps are 1-8 on the road, a near mirror of their 10-0 home record, it shouldn’t take a herculean effort to keep this game within reach for the duration.
Maryland’s bench isn’t entirely deep, so, if they can do a better job of slowing down Jahmir Young and Hakim Hart this time around, it should go a long way in forcing the rest of the cast to beat them. Of Maryland’s 23 free throws in the last contest, the aforementioned Young and Hart took 15 of them. Slow them down, force the Terps to be a perimeter team, and the game is there for the taking.
What To Watch For
Whose game is it? - Penn State played Maryland’s type of game last time. The Terps were able to keep the Lions uncomfortable, forcing them into errant decisions at half court, effectively preventing them from picking up a rhythim. Can Penn State be the team to set the pace this time around? Can they make enough shots early to force Maryland into ill advised decisions? More importantly, can they keep their foot on the gas if they find themselves with a big lead?
Senior Day - This is the final home game for a number of folks whose elibigility runs out at the end of the season. Hopefully there’s a crowd there to send them off. And, of course, hopefully they go out with a victory.
How many times has Penn State found themselves, this season and in years past, with their goals well within their grasp and simply unable to seize the moment? We’ve seen the Lions be their own worst enemy time after time. That’s where Penn State Pessimism™ comes from. All that said, the pessimism will be lacking today. Penn State 85, Maryland 55
Use this as your open thread for the game. As always, open thread rules apply. No illegal streams, no NSFW content, and for the love of all things cute, be nice to each other, the players, and the staff!
Here’s to a victory! We Are!