Nittany Lions on a roll

By Paddy Cotter

For the Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State men’s basketball team can be frustrating at times.

It would be easier if they were lovable losers, but they don’t fit that role at all. A dominant 78-61 win over No. 17 Maryland in the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night further proved that.

“As a staff you want to be the best you can be at the end of the year,” Coach Patrick Chambers said. “You’re seeing that.”

The win marked the fifth out of the last seven games for the Lions, who started with an 0-10 conference record.

“The first half of conference play, our young guys really had to learn how to win in the Big Ten,” Lamar Stevens, who recorded a game-high 24 points for the Lions, said. “We knew we were talented, but it’s just a whole nother level.”

Myles Dread stole the spotlight early. The freshman recorded 17 points, 9 of which came from beyond the arc and 15 of which came in the first half.

“It’s always good to have a guy like Myles that gets hot early,” Stevens said. “It gives everyone a boost of confidence.”

Penn State got off to a 14-3 start. The Terrapins couldn’t get anything going in the paint and Dread was hitting shots early.

“That really is throwing a haymaker,” Chambers said. “It deflates the opponent a little bit.”

That start got even hotter when the Terrapins entered a long scoring drought and Dread continued to dominate.

With seven minutes left in the first half, Dread alone was outscoring the Terrapins, 15-14. When added to his teammates contributions, the Lions had a 27-14 lead.

The most surprising aspect of the first half was the disappearance of Anthony Cowan Jr. The guard typically directs the Terrapins offense, but was silent in the first half against the Lions.

“There was no fight in us,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “That was the disappointing part.”

The Lions’ defense hampered the Terrapins, forcing 17 turnovers that resulted in 26 points.

Jamari Wheeler had only one point, but his seven assists and overwhelming defensive effort made him one of the most important players on the court.

“Jamari has done a great job of buying into his role,” Stevens said.

“He doesn’t need the headlines,” Chambers said. “He just wants to win.”

The Lions took a 42-20 lead and all the momentum in Happy Valley into the halftime break.

“Our identity really showed by holding them to 20 points,” Chambers said.

When the drubbing continued in the second half, Turgeon decided to substitute all five players on the court.

“I was just searching and there was no flow the second half,” Turgeon said of the decision he made five minutes into the second half. “I was just trying to find someone that was going to play hard.”

Turgeon did it again a few minutes later as things started to get even worse for the Terrapins.

“No matter what buttons I pushed, it didn’t seem to work tonight,” Turgeon said.

The Lions racked up a 29-point lead midway through the first half and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Stevens led the way, working his defenders into the paint before patiently finding the right shot.

Maryland fought back, cutting the lead to 16 with five minutes left. But the effort was futile.

Penn State will face No. 19 Wisconsin on the road Saturday at 1 p.m.

MARYLAND (21-8): Fernando 3-6 3-4 9, J.Smith 4-11 0-0 9, Ayala 3-7 0-0 6, Morsell 1-5 4-4 6, Cowan 6-11 3-4 15, Lindo 0-0 0-0 0, Tomaic 0-1 0-0 0, S.Smith 1-4 2-2 5, Mona 0-0 0-0 0, Wiggins 5-11 1-1 11. Totals 23-56 13-15 61.

PENN ST. (12-16): Stevens 9-17 5-6 24, Harrar 4-7 1-1 9, Reaves 1-6 2-2 5, Dread 4-10 6-8 17, Wheeler 0-1 1-2 1, Watkins 3-6 0-0 6, Buttrick 0-1 0-0 0, Bolton 2-6 2-2 6, Jones 4-5 0-0 10. Totals 27-59 17-21 78.

Halftime–Penn St. 42-20. 3-Point Goals–Maryland 2-19 (J.Smith 1-2, S.Smith 1-3, Morsell 0-2, Ayala 0-4, Cowan 0-4, Wiggins 0-4), Penn St. 7-20 (Dread 3-8, Jones 2-3, Stevens 1-3, Reaves 1-4, Bolton 0-1, Buttrick 0-1). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Maryland 32 (Fernando 8), Penn St. 29 (Stevens, Reaves 5). Assists–Maryland 7 (Fernando, Wiggins 2), Penn St. 16 (Wheeler 7). Total Fouls–Maryland 16, Penn St. 15. Technicals–Dread.