- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2021

There was no one else Penn State would rather have found in that situation — shot clock winding low with under a minute left in the game. There was an air of expectation when the ball left Seth Lundy’s hands, as if the ball had already swished through the nylon.

When the ball finally did, a 3-pointer that gave the Nittany Lions a four-point lead, the Xfinity Center heard its loudest cheers since the coronavirus pandemic forced crowds away. With limited family members allowed to attend Sunday’s game in College Park for the first time this season, Lundy’s trey brought the bench and those Penn State faithful off their feet.

Maryland couldn’t contain Lundy during the 66-61 loss — concluding the regular season on a down note. The sophomore went off for 31 points, with several critical makes down the stretch spoiling the Terrapins’ senior night.

Maryland had led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but an extended 15-4 run from Penn State in the last three minutes sealed the visitors’ win. The result also leaves Maryland with two straight losses heading into the Big Ten tournament. The Terrapins will be the eighth seed, facing Michigan State on Thursday.

“You have losses in life that are devastating, and this is one of them,” Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “Lot of tears in the locker room. Played well early; didn’t play well late.”

Seniors Darryl Morsell, Galin Smith and Reese Mona were all featured in the starting lineup — with Mona receiving his first career start. They helped power a 12-0 Maryland start, with Aaron Wiggins adding a transition three before Penn State called a timeout.

But with four turnovers on their next five possessions after that stoppage, the Terrapins allowed the Nittany Lions to claw their way back into the game. And while Maryland led by as many as 16 in the first half and at 10 at intermission, Penn State took advantage of a door left ajar.

“You got to give them credit: they executed,” Wiggins said. “They didn’t let up, and we just weren’t as good defensively the last couple minutes, so it really came to bite us.”

Turgeon’s squad beat back the first advance, rattling off 11 straight points after the Nittany Lions came within three about six minutes into the second half. Wiggins knocked down a three to begin that stretch — part of his team-high 15 points — and Donta Scott capped the run with two long-distance makes of his own.

But from that point on, Turgeon said proceedings began to snowball on his team. Penn State scored 11 straight points, benefiting from six of those coming from the free-throw line. And while Jairus Hamilton and Eric Ayala exchanged buckets with the Nittany Lions to temporarily hold the edge, Maryland soon went over four minutes without another basket.

And during that stretch, Ayala and Wiggins both missed the front end of one-and-ones, crucial opportunities left at the charity stripe.

“Our offense was good enough tonight to win,” Turgeon said. “We make the front end of those one-and-ones, and we guard the way we’re supposed to guard, we should still win the game.”

Instead, the stage was set for Lundy, who scored nine of his 31 points with under three minutes left. The forward knocked down a contested three from the wing with two minutes remaining to make it a one possession game, then used a hop step in the lane to give his squad an advantage.

His biggest shot of the night came on the wing, the triple with 32 seconds left that elevated Penn State’s lead to four points and all but put the finishing touches on Maryland’s loss.

Lundy was terrific,” Turgeon said. “I mean, out-of-his-mind terrific.”

Maryland turned its season around in February and March, finishing with a 6-4 conference record in those months after dropping seven of its first 10 conference games. But with two straight losses, a late dip in form might’ve arrived at the wrong time.

Or, the Terrapins will rediscover what pushed them into the NCAA tournament conversation.

“I don’t think the five-game win streak that we had was a fluke,” Wiggins said. “I believe in every one of my guys, and I know that they all believe in themselves. It’s just a matter of us consistently feeling that same way.”

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