COLLEGE PARK -- As Maryland freshman Diamond Stone walked through the tunnel that leads to the locker room at XFINITY Center in College Park after Wednesday's game against Penn State went final, fans stood and chanted his name in gratitude for the performance he had just put on.
The school record for most points in a single game by a freshman, set by Terrapins legend Joe Smith, had stood at Maryland since 1993. That is, until Wednesday night, when a player born more than three years after that record was set -- Stone -- exploded for 39 points and 12 rebounds to pull Maryland back from 13 points down with 6:34 to play in a 70-64 victory over the Nittany Lions.
“I think Diamond likes the bright lights. He likes the stage. He likes to be challenged,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were extremely challenged today.”
Stone did not start vs. Penn State, instead coming off the bench as he has since the middle of the non-conference season. He was the only real offensive threat or consistent rebounder for the Terrapins in the first half, and for that he was rewarded with the opportunity to start in the second half.
By that point, Maryland trailed by eight points with little offensive flow to speak of. Stone was the spark, not only with his production but with his energy out of the gate. He helped the Terrapins ride a 10-0 scoring run to a tied game, 33-33.
But Maryland would dig itself another hole, down 13 points with 6:34 to play. It was Stone again, this time with a steal as Maryland pressured full court, plus a layup and a foul, that catalyzed the team, cutting the deficit to just six points only a minute later.
“I just thought he was going to pass it there. He did and I just went to the hole,” Stone said. “I think I believed that I could help this team win and so with that being said, I think that I just went back to my basics.”
Now comes the more difficult question for Turgeon. Should Stone stay in his role off the bench where he has been most successful, or shift back into the starting lineup because he has been so productive?
We will soon find out, with a road game against Northwestern awaiting on Saturday.