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After ugly tweets, that's not Stone's focus in return to home state

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After ugly tweets, that's not Stone's focus in return to home state

In the days and weeks that followed the announcement in the spring of 2015 by Maryland freshman Diamond Stone that he would play his college basketball in College Park over in-state favorite Wisconsin, there were instances of well-documented, often ugly social media backlash directed at the Milwaukee native.

On Saturday, Stone and the No. 3 Terrapins travel to Madison for what will be a homecoming and also likely a less-than-welcoming crowd at the Kohl Center.

In speaking to him, though, he won’t mention much about the possibility of hostility.

“I’m just really excited to come back home to play in front of my family and friends,” Stone said on Thursday. “I know they’re going to be excited to see me play.

“Everyone’s excited. I’m excited, so it should be a fun game.”

Despite the fact that Maryland has not played in many true road games this year, those few away from College Park have included some especially loud environments -- a Connecticut-friendly Madison Square Garden and the raucous Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill when the Terrapins faced North Carolina.

That game against Connecticut -- another school that recruited Stone extensively -- was actually one of the freshman’s best to that point in the season. Seeming to settle into his role off the bench, he had 16 points and nine rebounds in a double-digit victory.

The focus against Wisconsin is flipping that negative energy on its head.

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“If the crowd is loud, that’s like the environment I like to play in,” Stone said. “I like to play in big environments. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a sold out game and I’m ready to play.”

Stone has progressed rapidly, better than he was one month ago and better than a month before that. His role off the bench has helped him to elude foul trouble, which means he is in the game for more meaningful stretches and more stretches that are meaningful.

Part of that is a credit to head coach Mark Turgeon, while another part is credit to Stone for being willing -- as a five-star player with NBA aspirations -- to be shifted to a role off the bench and take hard coaching.

“I’m probably harder on Diamond than most of the team because he has the furthest to go. He didn’t like it at first,” Turgeon said. “I think he’s getting more used to it. When you have guys with talent, you really want to push them because you know there’s more in him.”

That is what makes the timing of Saturday’s game fortuitous for Stone and Maryland.

This is the 16th game of the season for the Terrapins, long after (in terms of Stone’s progression) its early matchup against local rival Georgetown and that showdown against the Tar Heels.

Stone will be personally tested against a crowd that likely will not do him any favors. But now almost halfway through his freshman season, he acknowledges that he is in a better position to handle it.

In Chapel Hill, a similar environment greeted former Duke Blue Devil and current Terrapin Rasheed Sulaimon. But he is a senior, used to those types of atmospheres, and he not only put up 18 points in that game, but he came out of it with words that were wise beyond his years.

He related his experience at UNC to what Stone may face vs. Wisconsin.

“Don’t do anything differently than what we’ve been doing all year,” Sulaimon said. “That’s what crowds want you to do. They want to get you out of your comfort zone and they want you to make it a personal vendetta where you go 1-on-5.”

Tip-off between Maryland and Wisconsin is set for 1 p.m.

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

LINCOLN, Neb. -- James Palmer Jr. scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half, Isaiah Roby had all 11 of his after half, and Nebraska held off Maryland 70-66 on Tuesday night.

Palmer and Roby combined for 35 of the Cornhuskers' 40 second-half points, and they secured their first 20-win season since 2008. They won a sixth straight conference game for the first time in 20 years.

Palmer scored 15 straight points for the Huskers (20-8, 11-4 Big Ten) over a 10-minute span that ended when Roby hit one of two free throws with 2:57 left for a 64-59 lead. Roby had a double-double, with 10 rebounds, and he also blocked three shots.

The Terps (17-11, 6-9) had a chance to take the lead with a minute to play, but Glynn Watson Jr. blocked Anthony Cowan Jr.'s 3-point try, Evan Taylor came up with the loose ball and got it to Watson.

Watson missed a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, and Roby got the rebound and was immediately fouled. He made both free throws for a 66-63 lead. Kevin Huerter's layin cut it to one point before Watson made two free throws.

Huerter went to the line with 2.8 seconds left, and after making the first free throw he intentionally missed the second. Palmer got the rebound, was fouled and put the game away with two free throws.

Bruno Fernando led the Terps with 21 points and nine rebounds. Huerter added 12 points and Darryl Morsell had 11.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terps' fading NCAA Tournament hopes might have been dashed with their seventh straight road loss.

Nebraska: The Huskers are resting firmly on the NCAA bubble and absolutely needed this win. They got it, thanks to Palmer and Roby's efforts in the second half.

UP NEXT

Maryland hosts Rutgers on Saturday. It's the teams' only meeting this season.

Nebraska visits Illinois. The Huskers beat the Illini 64-63 in Lincoln on Jan. 15.

RELATED: DMV College Basketball Power Rankings: Missed opportunities

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Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss

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USA TODAY Sports

Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lamar Stevens feels like he's playing his most consistent basketball right now, a bad omen for upcoming opponents considering Penn State expects its hybrid forward to do a little bit of everything.

Just like he did on Wednesday.

Stevens scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting with 14 in the second half to lift Penn State over Maryland 74-70.

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"Lamar really stepped up for us," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We needed every one of those points that he had tonight."

Tony Carr added 16 points, Josh Reaves scored 14, and Mike Watkins added 11 for the Nittany Lions (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference), who equaled their previous best mark for conference victories under Chambers.

"The best teams always find ways to win," Stevens said. "We locked down when we had to, got huge stops, huge rebounds and I think that's a huge step for this team."

With Maryland (16-10, 5-8) up 20-14 midway through the first half, Stevens nailed his first of two 3-pointers to spark a quick 9-0 run that helped Penn State take control.

He rolled layups off his fingers and sank midrange jumpers on multiple back-to-back possessions in the second half, where he scored 11 of his team's first 20 points.

"He made some incredible, incredible shots," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He was terrific, he was so efficient."

Stevens added four rebounds, two assists and was 3-for-4 on free throws with all three makes coming in the final 5:48 as Maryland threatened.

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Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points while Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando added 13 apiece.

Darryl Morsell had 10 points for the Terrapins, who cut a 10-point deficit with 8:11 to play to just three with 1:13 left.

"I didn't think we competed in the first half defensively," Turgeon said. "I thought in the second half, we were really trying hard."

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins' disappointing season continues and they have dropped to 7-7 since stalwart forward Justin Jackson's season was ended by a torn shoulder ligament in late December. Although they shot better than their season average, the Terrapins were badly outplayed in the paint, getting outscored 32-22 and outrebounded 27-23.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are playing an exciting brand of basketball as of late. They have a combined 22 dunks over their last three home games and opponents are finding it hard to play fast against a team that thrives on speed.