Penn State loses heartbreaker to Maryland on Valentine’s Day

posted February 15, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Uriah Tagle

The Penn State faithful left the Bryce Jordan Center with broken hearts on Valentine’s Day Saturday night, as the No. 19 Maryland Terrapins (21-5, 9-4 Big Ten) defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions (15-11, 3-9 Big Ten) 76-73 in dramatic fashion to sweep the season series. The Maryland win improved their record to 11-7 in the all-time series against Penn State.

Although they ultimately took the loss, the Nittany Lions came out of the gates playing a fast pace and jumped out to a quick advantage which they did not relinquish for the first twenty minutes, leading 34-33 at the half. Senior guard D.J. Newbill began the game with the hot hand, scoring the first points of the night on a midrange jumper and adding three more buckets in the opening minutes to score nine of Penn State’s first 14 points. Newbill finished the night with 25 points, marking the 100th double-digit scoring performance of his college career.

After Newbill’s scoring explosion in the first few minutes of play, it was sophomore guard Geno Thorpe who paced the Nittany Lions, scoring 12 first half points on 5-8 shooting from the field. The first half outburst surpassed Thorpe’s previous Big Ten career high for points in a game, with the Pittsburgh native finishing the night with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and a steal.

“He needs to play consistent basketball, and I think when he plays consistent, he’s really good,” said Penn State head coach Pat Chambers after the game. “Geno played really well tonight.”

Though Penn State held the lead for the entire first half, it only took a few seconds in the second frame for the Terrapins to commandeer their first lead of the night, opening the half with an easy bucket. From there, Maryland embarked on an 18-5 run which gave the Terps a 13-point lead, its largest of the night. Guards Dez Wells and Melo Trimble paced the Terrapin offense during the run and throughout the game, with the pair scoring 20 and 22 points respectively, which accounted for nearly half of Maryland’s 76 points.

“Melo was terrific,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. “Dez was being Dez. I’m really proud of my group.”

Trimble, a true freshman, was Maryland’s leading scorer entering the contest, averaging 15.5 points per game. The Marlboro, Maryland native relentlessly attacked the basket and gave the Nittany Lions problems down low, making several trips to the free throw line en route to a perfect 12-12 mark from the charity stripe.  

Even though Maryland took control of the game after the intermission, the Nittany Lions would not be denied, mounting a comeback that included an 11-0 run capped by a Brandon Taylor three-pointer from two steps behind the arc which sent the Bryce Jordan Center crowd into a frenzy and tied the game at 60.

After the Penn State comeback got the home crowd back into the game, the two teams battled for the final ten minutes, setting up a dramatic ending. With just under two minutes to play and the Nittany Lions trailing by two, junior center Jordan Dickerson was called for a controversial foul as he was tangled up with Maryland’s Evan Smotrycz, fouling him out, and swinging the momentum back towards the Terrapins.

“That was the worst call I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” said a furious Pat Chambers after the game. “They’re pulling Jordan Dickerson down. It’s a joke the way we’re officiated.”

In the game’s waning moments, D.J. Newbill nailed a three from the top of the key to bring Penn State within one with just 15 seconds remaining. After an intentional foul, and two made free throws from Melo Trimble, Newbill got an open look and launched another three-pointer to attempt to tie the game, but it bounced off the back iron and up over the backboard, ending the contest.

“He’d just hit the same one. I’ve got to trust him with that shot,” said Chambers when addressing the media. “In rhythm, I thought it was good.”

While the Nittany Lions lost the game in gut-wrenching fashion, the team set their season-low for turnovers in the contest, coughing the ball up just seven times. Chambers acknowledged the efficient performance after the game, but also added a disclaimer.

“We played really good basketball, we really did. Seven turnovers is fantastic,” he said. “But these are tough to swallow. The moral victories are no longer here.”

Penn State will finish their streak of three-consecutive contests against ranked opponents on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center as they host the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m. Wisconsin won the first game of the season series in Madison on New Year’s Eve, 89-72.

Uriah Tagle is a senior majoring in communication arts and sciences and economics. To contact him, email uriahtagle@gmail.com