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Penn State Hoops Tops Maryland 85-69 In Regular Season Finale

Penn State men’s basketball (15-16, 9-11 Big Ten) defeated Maryland (15-16, 7-13 Big Ten) 85-69 to finish off the 2023-24 regular season. The game was a big win for head coach Mike Rhoades’ squad, which heads into the Big Ten tournament in three days’ time.

Qudus Wahab led the way with 19 points and 15 rebounds, while Ace Baldwin Jr. added 17 points and 11 assists. Rayquawndis Mitchell and Puff Johnson added 12 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench.

How It Happened

Maryland won the opening tip, but Wahab was able to grab a quick steal. On the other end, after a missed layup by D’Marco Dunn, Wahab grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to open up the scoring for the game.

Wahab continued his hot start back on defense with a block, giving the ball back to Penn State. Baldwin went right down the court and found Dunn open underneath the rim for an easy two points. The Terrapins finally got a shot to fall after Donta Scott drilled a three, and after a turnover by Wahab, Scott got an and-one layup to drop and hit the free throw to finish the three-point play.

Down two, Baldwin found Dunn open in the corner for three points. The Nittany Lions kept the scoring going, with Baldwin and Wahab hitting back-to-back layups to make the score 11-6. Jahmir Young and Baldwin traded a pair of free throws, although Baldwin kept the assists coming and found Leo O’Boyle on a cut to the rim for a layup.

Young drilled a pair of free throws but was answered right away with a Zach Hicks pullup jumper. Maryland then got two huge buckets, a three from Jahari Long and a layup from Caelum Swanton-Rodger to make it a two-point game. A single free throw from Baldwin increased the lead to three, but both teams went on a long run of no field goals.

That would finally end with 10 minutes remaining in the half when Balwin drilled a layup. Swanton-Rodger was fouled and he hit both free throws to make it 20-17. Mitchell and Young traded two-point buckets, but Mitchell was fouled heading into a media break.

Out of the timeout, Mitchell hit both of his free throws, but the Terrapins went on a run to retake the lead. Young started things with an and-one layup and free throw and was followed up by a Scott layup. Jamie Kaiser Jr. drilled a three to make the score 27-24 Maryland, forcing Rhoades to call a timeout.

After the break, Nick Kern Jr. scored a layup for his first basket of the game. Kaiser answered with a dunk but Wahab got an and-one layup and free throw to tie the game at 29. Young hit a layup on the following possession but after great passing from Penn State, Wahab found Puff Johnson open for three for the lead.

Swanton-Rodger hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game again, but Wahab was fouled on the next possession and his two free throws regained the lead for the Nittany Lions. As the final minute of the first half ticked down, Kern was able to get a layup to drop with 23 seconds left to increase the lead to four. Maryland missed its final shot of the first half and went into the half down 36-32.

At the start of the second half, Deshawn Harris-Smith drilled a long three-pointer for the first points of the final 20 minutes. After misses by both teams, Kern was fouled shooting a layup but got the shot to fall. He missed the free throw but made up for it grabbing a steal back on defense and driving coast-to-coast for an easy two points.

Up five, Penn State continued to score, with Wahab getting another layup to drop. Young finally ended the 6-0 run by the Nittany Lions with a jumper in the paint. Harris-Smith followed that up with a layup to cut the Maryland deficit to three heading into the first media break of the half.

After the timeout, Wahab knocked down a layup, but Kaiser one-uped his layup on the other end, getting his to drop getting the foul call, and hitting the free throw to make it 44-42. The Nittany Lions then went on a huge run to blow open the game.

Mitchell kicked things off with a huge three, which was followed up by a mid-range bucket from Jameel Brown. Then after a turnover by Young, Johnson got a layup to drop and was then followed up by a long Baldwin three to make it 54-42.

Long ended the 10-0 with a pullup jumper, but Mitchell answered him right away with another three-pointer. The points kept on coming with Wahab getting another shot to drop, but Noah Batchelor drilled a three for Maryland to finally get some points for the Terrapins.

Johnson scored an and-one layup and free throw and Long drilled a pair of free throws on the other end. Baldwin followed that up with another tough layup, but Batchelor drilled another three-pointer. Up by 12 points, Wahab increased the lead to 14 points, slamming home a thunderous dunk that put fans in the Bryce Jordan Center on their feet.

Kern and Harris-Smith traded layups on back-to-back possessions. Baldwin counted to shine in the second half knocking down another tough layup. Young and Johnson were both fouled and they both were able to knock down both sets of free throws as Penn State led by 15 with just under seven left to play.

Maryland attempted to get a run going with Young hitting one of two free throws and Harris-Smith scoring a layup, though Baldwin drilled another three to crush that run. Wahab hit another layup and Batchelor answered with another three. Johnson got another and-one layup and free throw to go up 17 and with only three minutes left to play, essentially ended the game.

Kaiser hit a layup and Mitchell hit a pair of free throws, as seniors Dan Conlan and Andy Christos checked in for their final home game. Kaiser and Mitchell both hit pairs of free throws, and Mady Traore hit a layup as the final minute began to tick down. After misses by Maryland, Penn State dribbled out the clock to hold on and win 85-69.

Takeaways

  • Baldwin looked great once again, finishing with 17 points and 11 assists. The guard’s passing ability was outstanding all game with multiple highlight-worthy passing turning into huge buckets for the Nittany Lions.
  • Wahab had a great night. The big man totaled 19 points and 15 rebounds in his final game at the Bryce Jordan Center. While it’s been an up-and-down season for Wahab, his performance on Sunday showed good signs heading into the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.
  • The Nittany Lions head out to the Big Ten Tournament with it being the last opportunity for Penn State to earn a chance to make it into any possession tournament.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the Big Ten tournament. They will take on Michigan in the first round on Wednesday, March 13.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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