Maryland Terps

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Turgeon: I don't think I've ever seen defense like this from my team

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Turgeon: I don't think I've ever seen defense like this from my team

COLLEGE PARK -- Early in the season, if one had proposed that Maryland lean hard on its defense late to close out a game, it would have seemed unwise.

The Terrapins just were not to that point yet, using their offensive firepower instead to win games more in a shootout than a defensive chess match, like when they hit big shots late and put 75 on Georgetown and 77 on Illinois State and managed 81 (but surrendered 89) against North Carolina.

Times have changed in College Park -- no more readily apparent than Saturday against No. 18 Purdue when the Terrapins slammed the door shut in the game’s final six minutes by ripping off a 16-2 run to seal a 72-61 victory over the Boilermakers.

“Guys, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve had really, really, really good defensive teams,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “But right now we’re playing at a level that I don’t know if I’ve seen as a head coach out of my teams.”

The tide likely turned after Maryland’s 74-65 loss to Michigan State on the road in East Lansing on Jan. 23. After guard Bryn Forbes torched the Terrapins’ perimeter defense for 25 points, something must have clicked. 

With the combination of forwards Jake Layman and Robert Carter, Jr., they held National Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff to just nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in the game that followed, a victory over then-No. 3 Iowa. They won a pair of defensive battles against Ohio State and Nebraska.

Then on Saturday, they went stop-for-stop with KenPom’s No. 8-rated team in adjusted defensive efficiency for the win.

MORE TERPS: 'THEY TOOK THEIR POISON'

“We try to make defense our identity,” senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “I keep saying this and we keep saying it to each other. We have all the physical tools to be a great defensive team. It’s just about locking in, dialing in, and effort.”

Every season has ebbs and flows, which is why Maryland’s defensive uptick is so important right now. Oddly, the team’s offense -- even with the fact that all five of its starters could carry the offense on a given night -- has struggled on and off over the past six games.

Sometimes it is a second half where the points dry up, like against Iowa, or the whole game is a rock fight, like against Nebraska.

Fortunately for them, there is that defense.

“When our shots don’t fall, we rely on our defense,” Carter said after scoring 19 points against Purdue. “We got a bunch of long guys that can move their feet, that can rebound, block shots, different things like that so we’re just trying to use that to our advantage and when it’s time to compete and clamp up to win the game we did it tonight.”

This is the reason why many view Maryland as the team with the highest ceiling in the country and undoubtedly one of the 15 or so teams that could win a national title.

If they are ever able to string together a defensive stretch like this with an offensive one that we have seen at different points in the season, watch out.

“It’s a lot of fun when you’re sitting over there and you know you’re going to get stops,” Turgeon said. “I keep saying our offense is going to play at a high level at some point, but the good thing is we continue to win.”

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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.

RELATED: UPDATED DMV POWER RANKINGS

"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.

MORE TERPS: MARYLAND STILL CONSIDERED BY MANY BRACKETOLOGISTS

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.