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How a loss of national respect could fuel Maryland in March

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How a loss of national respect could fuel Maryland in March

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland is in the last category any team wants to be in right now -- those large-conference teams seen as on a downward trajectory heading into the month of March.

After losing four of their last six games, Maryland opens play in the Big Ten tournament on Friday in Indianapolis at 9 p.m. against either Wisconsin or the winner of Rutgers-Nebraska. It’s single-elimination from here on out in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments -- leaving no real room for error -- but it also helps to hit a reset button on a disappointing end to the regular season.

“In the beginning of the year, we was No. 1, No. 2. We was in the top of the rankings and everyone pretty much had respect for us,” sophomore guard Melo Trimble said on Wendesday.

“And I think now that we took a couple [losses] and people just lost respect for us and we’re not in the picture of anything so I think just knowing that and knowing [what] people are saying about us gives us a chip on our shoulder and makes us more hungry and that’s something that we all like.”

Maryland still has arguably the most talented starting five in the country when it puts Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Robert Carter, Jr., and Diamond Stone on the floor to begin games.

The question has simply been about fit and the adjustment they showed against Illinois -- playing a smaller lineup with Layman at the power forward -- could hold the offensive key in March.

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They have the talent to win in March. They, on paper, have the versatility to win in March by either working the ball inside offensively or shooting it from behind the three-point line. According to KenPom, they rank 20th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency which should matter in March.

This should be a team built for tournament success. If there will be a turnaround, it will have to start on Friday.

“We’re looking at [the Big Ten tournament] as a mini version of the NCAA tournament,” Sulaimon said. “Instead of six games, it’s three game and if you lose, you go home. So we’re going to try to use the Big Ten tournament as much as we can as our last preparation for the NCAA tournament and at the same time we’re going to try to win it.”

Maryland is likely on the line between a No. 4 and No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament before playing a game in the Big Ten tournament. A win on Friday should help to solidify them as a No. 4 seed. Among bracket makers, a loss would drain a lot of remaining confidence in this team and a No. 5 seed could be in their future.

A run to the title game, on the other hand, could help get them somewhere in the No. 3 conversation.

The optimist would say that Maryland’s effort against Purdue and in stretches against Indiana would indicate that this is a team that might be one adjustment away from being looking more like the team many expected to see by March when the season began in October.

The pessimist sees those four losses in six games, punctuated by a sub-250 RPI loss to Minnesota.

“We just want to play well. We want to get back to playing really well,” Turgeon said. “We’re playing good, but we know there’s a lot of things that we can do better on the defensive end and just get it rolling at the right time.

“Whether we’re an underdog or a favorite this time of year, it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a number in front of your name now and everybody we play going forward is a heck of a basketball team.”

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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.

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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.