Lions knock off Maryland
UNIVERSITY PARK — Without veteran production, full attendance and much of reason for optimism after a depressing loss to Rutgers, Penn State overcame No. 21 Maryland, 70-64, Tuesday night.
“It just shows the perseverance of this team,” Lamar Stevens, who had a game-high 25 points, said. “We lost to one of the worst bottom-dwellers in the Big Ten and beat a ranked team.”
Freshmen ran the court against the Terrapins, who were 8-0 on the road, scoring 53 of the Lions’ 70 points.
Junior Julian Moore has started over Mike Watkins in eight of past nine games. But an ugly loss to Rutgers inspired Chambers to shake up the starting lineup. Watkins’ presence made a clear impact on the court from the tip-off.
Catapulted by a dominant opening to the contest, the 6-foot-10 inch freshman finished with 10 points and four blocks. Watkins was also perfect from the free throw line, making all six of his attempts.
“I thought they were dominating at the start, physically,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We expect Watkins to block shots… one of the best in the league at doing it. But the biggest surprise is that we just weren’t ready to play today, and Penn State has a lot to do with that.”
Wooden Award candidate Melo Trimble didn’t stay quiet for long, scoring eight of the Terps’ first 10 points. However, the junior guard was limited to one point in the second half.
The Terrapins’ primary offensive scheme was based on screenplay to get shooters into open spaces. The Lions had prepared for the style of play.
“Our ball-screen defense was pretty good,” Chambers said. “We’ve worked on it so much, and the guys that were on Trimble did a nice job.”
The Lions were scoreless from the field in the final 3:46 of the first half, boosted only by five points from the free throw line.
Captains Shep Garner and Payton Banks made only one of their combined 15 shots during the game. The Lions were 2-of-18 from the 3-point-line.
Despite the offensive stall, the Lions protected their lead heading into halftime, 35-29.
Most of the Lions key players were well rested heading into the break. Davis Zemgulis, who hasn’t seen the court much this season, provided a breather for impact players such as Josh Reaves.
“Davis gave us great minutes,” Chambers said. “All he does in come in and work. You’re going to see him a lot more.”
In one of the Terps’ opening second-half possessions, the Lions gave up a pair of rebounds, extending the Terps’ drive. The visitors were unable to score on the Lions high-energy defense during the entire minute-and-a-half-long possession.
The Lions strategic and balanced defensive attack forced the Terrapins to match their season low shooting percentage of 34 percent.
The Lions’ defensive persistence resulted in offensive production. Stevens scored the Lions first seven points after halftime, extending the Lions’ lead to 14.
The Terrapins second-leading scorer, Justin Jackson, was shut down for most of the game. The freshman was scoreless until midway through the second half, but came back to lead his team with 14 points.
Led by Jackson and a few perimeter buckets from Kevin Huerter, who recorded 12 points for the Terps, the Lions’ lead was cut to four in the final minutes.
But the Philly freshmen weren’t done. Nazeer Bostick ripped momentum from the hands of the Big Ten’s second ranked team. The 6-4 guard had a put-back layup in a herd of Terrapins. When the Terrapins brought it back down the court and found an opening in the Lions’ defense, Bostick came out of nowhere and batted a shot attempt out of the air.
“Huge, HUGE, Offensive rebound and putback,” Chambers said. “He’s earned the way into the rotation.”
The freshman, who is nicknamed ‘horse’ for his no-quit attitude, hadn’t seen the court much until Tuesday night. He has mostly been on the bench watching his former high school teammates in Tony Carr and Stevens lead the Lions. But in the game’s most crucial moment, Bostick was the star.
“It’s great to see Naz have that moment,” Carr, who scored 14 points, said. “That got us over the hump to win the game… And that’s my best friend.”
The Lions were in trouble towards the end with four players a foul away from ejection.
However, the Terrapins never regained confidence, giving the Lions the win over a Maryland team that was 14-1 after a loss since January 2015, which they suffered to Purdue on Saturday.
After the victory, Chambers was hugging numerous people and demonstrating the happiness that had been missing from the sixth-year coach throughout the season.
“It’s here,” Chambers said. “We’ve got all the pieces… it’s right there for us. I was fired up because I sensed it. I felt it.”
The Lions are undefeated when limiting their opponent to less than 70 points. On Saturday, the Lionswill be trying to keep Illinois below the 70-point-mark on the road.