The Big Ten only had one game on Friday, but it featured an interesting matchup between Maryland and Penn State. Both sides were desperate to come out on top to help their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Penn State Nittany Lions 55, Maryland Terrapins 50
Both teams entered this game with some momentum and desperately trying to move up in the bubble conversation. Penn State had lost its most recent outing against Wisconsin, but had won three of the team’s last five games. Maryland was similarly coming off a quality win, beating Purdue at home earlier in the week.
And the game largely played out as one might expect, with the teams going back and forth in a tight battle through the final buzzer. Things were basically deadlocked for much of the evening before Penn State grabbed a narrow lead in the second half and held off a Maryland comeback effort. Izaiah Brockington led the way with 13 points.
For Penn State, the win pushes the team to 7-8 overall, 4-7 in Big Ten play, and unquestionably on the NCAA bubble. It might seem odd to say a team with a record below .500 is a serious contender for the Tourney in February, but that’s reality this season. Penn State has played an absolutely brutal slate and done well against it. It’s how the team is 28th in the NET rankings, despite the underwhelming record.
On the other side, this is a tough one for Maryland. The loss drops the Terps to 10-9 overall and 4-8 in Big Ten play. Like Penn State, the team is now on the edge of the bubble and is really going to need a strong finish to feel good on Selection Sunday. Maryland still just isn’t getting enough from its offense and frontcourt to win these types of games. The Terps finished with a putrid 0.76 points per possession on Friday and got virtually nothing offensively from the team’s big men. That needs to change.
Penn State will now prepare for a key game against Michigan State on the road on Tuesday and Maryland will hope to bounce back against Ohio State at home on Monday.