Know Your Enemy: Penn State Hoops vs. No. 21 Maryland Terrapins

Penn State men’s basketball is firmly on the bubble this season for the NCAA Tournament, and there may not be a bigger game than this Sunday against No. 21 Maryland. Simply put, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Nittany Lions need to win to keep any tournament hopes alive. Many bracketology experts have them as one of the first four out, barely missing the Big Dance. A win against a top-25 team would surely help their cause, but they would also need to pull out some wins in the Big Ten Tournament to lock them in.

The Terrapins also need to win this game, though, not to lock down a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They are currently in a six-way tie for second place in the conference, and a win would give them a great shot at the highly coveted double-bye. This would keep the Terps rested for a run to claim the Big Ten Championship.

Penn State is coming off a thrilling overtime win over Northwestern and is trying to sustain that momentum as the season comes to a close. Here’s what to expect when the two teams tip off on Senior Day on Sunday.


The Bryce Jordan Center hasn’t been friendly to the Nittany Lions in their last three home games. They are 1-2 in that stretch, losing an overtime heartbreaker to Wisconsin and blowing a massive lead to Rutgers. Over the course of that stretch, they were inefficient from behind the arc. They only made nine three-pointers against the Badgers and eight against the Scarlet Knights.

The truth of the matter is that if Penn State is going to win games here in March, it needs to make three-pointers. The Nittany Lions could beat any team in the country if those shots go in, but they can also lose to every team in the country if they get cold. The phrase “live by the three, die by the three” has never been more appropriate.

If the Nittany Lions can reverse course from how they played the last three home games, the next step is to look back at the game in College Park and the lessons from there. If you’re head coach Micah Shrewsberry, there are a few takeaways that you would want your team to realize.

The first takeaway is that turnovers lost the first game for Penn State. It turned the ball over 13 times, while Maryland turned the ball over 10 times. The more shocking statistic is that Maryland had 17 points off those 13 turnovers, while Penn State only had six. That 11-point swing would’ve changed the game entirely.

Home-court advantage should help in this regard. It’s no secret that College Park is a tough place to play, and the atmosphere definitely got to the Nittany Lions. If the Bryce Jordan Center can match that, then the turnover battle may go the other way.

The second takeaway is that the defense needs to be on point. The Terps shot 63.6% from the field in the second half, led by Hakim Hart’s 23 points and Jahmir Young’s 18 points. Penn State can’t allow those two players to get hot because if the two gain momentum, they won’t stop sinking buckets. Young specifically is one of the best players in the Big Ten, and Jalen Pickett will need to play some of his best defense to lock him down.

If the defense improves, it will also allow for less opportunities at the free throw line. Maryland attempted 23 free throws compared to Penn State’s four, which is an absurd difference to begin with. Acknowledging that, if the Nittany Lions cut their opponents’ free throws in half, they will be in a better position than they were in February.

Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that Penn State isn’t the same team that Maryland saw last month. Camren Wynter is playing some of the best basketball of his life right now, and he put up zero points against the Terps. That’s not going to happen again. Pickett got locked down in the first game, so he should make the necessary adjustments to prevent that from happening again as well.

Shrewsberry isn’t going to accept the same offensive performance, either. Only five players scored in the first game, and he is going to push everyone to actually contribute in this one. Wynter, Kebba Njie, Evan Mahaffey, and the rest of the role players will need to step up if there’s any chance of winning on Sunday.

The Terps are coming off a bad loss to Ohio State, which has stifled any momentum they may have had after beating Minnesota and Northwestern. They are 8-6 all-time against the Nittany Lions but 2-5 in the BJC. In fact, they have lost the last five games they’ve played in Happy Valley. That’s a great sign, as Shrewsberry and Co. aim to continue that tradition with the 2022-23 season coming to a close.


We’ve seen this story before, and it never ends well. A generationally great Penn State talent has the opportunity to lead the team to the NCAA Tournament, only to fall just short because of one loss. It’s a tale as old as time.

The Nittany Lions are hot at the right time, and they have all of the pieces to beat Maryland. We just don’t think they will. We predict the game goes down to the wire, but the Terps pull out a 76-70 win.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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