What’s gotten into Penn State?
After starting off Big Ten play with a 2-12 mark, the Nittany Lions have now won three straight games. They used strong defense to take down the No. 17 Maryland Terrapins at the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday, 78-61.
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Wednesday evening’s result in University Park, Pennsylvania marked the third time this season that Penn State (12-16; 5-12 Big Ten) had beaten a team ranked in the top 15 of the AP Top 25 Poll. The Nittany Lions topped then-No. 13 Virginia Tech on Nov. 27, and upset then-ranked No. 6 Michigan on Feb. 12.
For Maryland (21-8; 12-6 Big Ten), it’s the second time Mark Turgeon's team has lost to an unranked Big Ten opponent this season. The other defeat came on Jan. 26 against Illinois at Madison Square Garden.
Before showing some fight and mounting a late comeback, Maryland trailed Penn State by 29 points with about 11 minutes remaining.
Update:@PennStateMBB hasn't let up. 🔥— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) February 28, 2019
It's a 25-point lead over the Terps! pic.twitter.com/IZkt6jMN6J
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Perimeter defense a strength for PSU
Coming into this game, Penn State had one of the worst defenses against three-point shooting, allowing opponents to connect on 32 percent of their shots, good enough for just the 11th best mark out of the 14 Big Ten teams.
But on Wednesday, the Nittany Lions were stingy at the perimeter, as the Terps made just one of 17 three-point attempts — an abysmal 5.9 percent clip from behind the arc.
Penn State also forced Maryland into 17 turnovers, blocked two Terps’ shots, and secured 23 defensive rebounds. The Nittany Lions scored 26 points off those Maryland turnovers.
As a team, the Terps shot 41 percent from the floor. Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points.
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Stevens, Dread step up
The Nittany Lions were led in this game by Lamar Stevens and Myles Dread.
Stevens, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from North Wales, Pennsylvania, tallied 24 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. It was the fifth time in his last six games that he had scored at least 20 points. Stevens is averaging 19.7 points per game so far this season.
Dread, a 6-foot-4 freshman guard, totaled 17 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. It was the 13th time this season that Dread scored double-digit points.
How'd @PennStateMBB jump out to such a big lead?— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) February 28, 2019
With a lot of help from @mylesd12_. He had 15 in the first half! pic.twitter.com/ZGsHvp5weY
Fellow freshman guard Myreon Jones chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Big Ten picture
For Penn State, the win unfortunately doesn’t move them too far up the ladder in the Big Ten standings, but the Nittany Lions are now tied with Indiana and Nebraska for 11th place. Up next for Penn State is a trip to No. 19 Wisconsin, then a trip to Rutgers, and then a home game vs. Illinois to round out the season. If Penn State can keep this winning streak rolling, it can enter the Big Ten tournament with a lot of momentum.
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Meanwhile, a win for Maryland would’ve put it just a half-game back from third-place Michigan in the Big Ten standings. But the loss keeps the Terps squarely in fourth place, just a half-game ahead of Wisconsin. The Terps have just two games remaining, both at home against Michigan and Minnesota.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.