Allegany Communications Sports
The way Maryland lost that one on Sunday was a new one, even for lifelong Maryland fans who never fool themselves into believing they’ve seen it all.
With the Terps, we’ve never seen anything yet. And this one was another one …
Maryland lost to Penn State, 65-64, Sunday afternoon in State College, Pa., as the Nittany Lions erased a 16-point deficit in closing the game on a 20-7 run, capped by a reported offensive rebound and put-back by Camren Wynter with 0.5 seconds to play.
Except, it wasn’t.
After Julian Reese provided a one-point lead in the final seconds, Maryland, after a defensive collapse in the final 10 minutes of the second half, came up with a solid stand for what should have been Penn State’s final shot.
It went just the way the Terps planned it, then defended it, as the rebound ended up ever so briefly in Jahmir Young’s hands, before it was slapped out of his hands by teammate Hakim Hart, who was also aggressively going for the ball.
The play, and the defense, worked perfectly for Maryland; until Wynter crept along the baseline (which was open for Penn State all too often on Sunday) and dropped the ball in with 0.5 seconds showing.
It was not an offensive rebound, as reported; it was a loose ball created by two Maryland teammates fighting each other for the same live ball in the game’s final second (not seconds).
Maryland has not won at Penn State since 2015. Maryland rarely won at Penn State when Penn State was the equivalent of an intramural team (which they most certainly are not now). The Terps just don’t win there, as no matter the players; no matter the coach, the song remains the same.
Young had the rebound secured. Hart, though, through no fault of his, inadvertently slapped it out.
Sadly, for Maryland, these things happen when everyone’s going for the ball, and it still had to miraculously carom directly to Wynter. But yikes! What a way to lose a game.
That said, the game should not have even come down to that play, as Maryland systematically allowed a 16-point lead to melt away. The defense, which had been so impressive in the first half, disappeared in the final 10 minutes of the game, other than on the final play, which seemed to go against Maryland in a get-what-you-deserve devil’s advocate way.
The offensive meltdown of seniors Hart and Donta Scott also contributed to Maryland’s receiving what it earned on Sunday afternoon, which needs to be fixed immediately if the Terps want to play more than two more games this season.
Making matters worse, we were all there to see it. Just a nice relaxing Sunday morning drive to nearby State College to support the Terps. Why not? Because when the Terps play in State College, it makes for a long, frustrating late Sunday afternoon drive home filled with what ifs?
Making matters even worse, the Penn State fans could not have been more friendly or more hospitable; even when the 14 of us wearing our Maryland colors lorded over them from our suite above as the Terps built what should have been an insurmountable 16-point lead, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless for a stretch of just under nine minutes; and then, particularly after Penn State had fought back from that 16-point deficit to win the game in the very final second after two Terps had held the Maryland victory in their hands before allowing it to slip away.
I have never found State College to be anything other than a friendly place seemingly filled with friendly people. Yet I have also found State College to be an odd place, a very different place. Maybe it’s the chill of the mountain air, I don’t know, but since seeing the 1998 film “Pleasantville” that is what State College has reminded me of.
They shower you with kindness, yet avoid getting close, as in the words of the great Bill Zapf, “They know things that even we don’t know.”
Friendliness abounds, yet a sense of warmth is missing. Maybe it is the mountain air, or maybe it’s just Pleasantville.
What does not seem pleasant is the situation the Terps have created for themselves, just one week after seemingly having the situation in hand before two bad losses at Ohio State and at Penn State.
Maryland went from having an inside track to a double-bye in this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament and at least a spot on the No. 6 line of the upcoming NCAA Tournament, perhaps higher with a successful Big Ten weekend.
Now the Terps are playing in the second round of the Big Ten on Thursday night against the Nebraska-Minnesota winner, and unless Scott and Hart come out of their offensive funks and unless they are able to fix the sudden defensive lapses that have hurt them the past week, their work will be doubly cut out for them. Certainly, their potential NCAA seeding has been damaged barring a miraculous run in the Big Ten.
But you know what? With this particular Maryland team and with this Maryland head coach, it seems mean spirited to brood about what could have been. For did anybody for a moment believe in November that this team could have been 20-11 overall and 11-9 in the Big Ten at the end of the regular season?
This team has been far too much fun and has played with too much resilience this season to give up on.
At this point it would just be silly to count them out, because very few of us were silly enough to have counted them in to begin with.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT