There have been two versions of the Maryland men’s basketball team this season: the team that dominates in the Xfinity Center and the team that doesn’t anywhere else.
The difference between the two is evident. When Maryland plays at home, it rides high emotions from its fans to play high-caliber basketball at the level like any top-tier team in the country.
When the team goes on the road, its level of play drastically decreases. But the main difference is that Maryland finds ways to lose close games.
The Terps were in a similar situation again Wednesday night against Penn State, and once again, they played well enough to put them in position to win the game before losing in the final seconds, 74-70.
“We didn’t think we competed well in the first half on the defensive end,” said sophomore guard Kevin Huerter. “We thought we did better in the second, but we just didn’t get many stops.”
Maryland’s (16-10, 5-8) lack of defense became clear after Penn State (17-9,7-6) went on a 10-1 run that gave them a 10-point lead in the second half. Maryland went 0-of-5 in that span while allowing Lamar Stevens to score seven straight points.
“He made a lot of tough shots,” Huerter said. “He shoots better at home. He’s a tough matchup. We thought [Michal Cekovsky] played well against him last time, so we knew that was going to be a loss coming in.”
Despite trailing by double digits, Maryland fought back and cut the lead to three with 73 second left in the game with a 3-point shot from Jared Nickens. Maryland went 0-of-2 the rest of the game, including a missed layup from sophomore guard Anthony Cowan that would have brought the team within two.
“Those are just plays I have to finish,” Cowan said after the game.
Stevens led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Sophomore guard Tony Carr added 16 points with six assists and junior guard Josh Reeves nearly had a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The loss is Maryland’s sixth straight on the road. The team is now 1-6 in away games and has lost four of its last five overall.
“We just can’t take any plays off. Even though we’re little, we have to box out every time,” Cowan said on if the losing streak wears on his team. “We have to give help every time. We have to contest shots every time. We just can’t take plays off, especially when we’re going through what we are now.”
Despite shooting 59 percent from the floor and 57 percent from the 3-point line, Maryland found itself down 41-35 at the end of the first half. Back-to-back threes from Cowan gave Maryland a 33-32 lead, but the team made just one basket in the final five minutes while Penn State finished the half with nine points.
The Terps still kept the score close for much of the second half. They even got the score back within one with another three from Cowan. It wasn’t until Maryland offensive lapse in the second half that Penn State started to distance itself on the scoreboard. By then, it proved to be too much for Maryland to overcome.
Maryland will have to recover quickly, as they are back in the Xfinity Center on Saturday to play Northwestern. The Wildcats are a team that is trending upwards, winning four of its last five. Tipoff will be at noon.