Where: Xfinity Center, College Park, Maryland
Maryland has recovered nicely from its only loss of the season, posting five straight double-digit victories since an 89-81 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 1. The fourth-ranked Terrapins will be looking to add to that momentum Wednesday when they tip off Big Ten Conference play with a home date against Penn State.
“The building will have a different buzz to it on Wednesday night because it’s Big Ten play,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said at his post-game news conference Sunday. “We just have to get a little bit tougher (as) we’re playing a Penn State team that plays with toughness.” Turgeon, though, hardly can quibble with his team’s on-court performance as the Terrapins have won their last five by an average of 22.6 points. That includes Sunday’s 87-67 thrashing of visiting Marshall in which Maryland shot 51.5 percent, including a season-high 13 3-pointers in 27 attempts. Penn State, meanwhile, enters conference play off four wins in its last five games and a week’s rest.
ABOUT PENN STATE (9-4): Since opening 2-2, the Nittany Lions only have lost two games and both were against teams (George Washington and Colorado) receiving votes in the national polls. Forward Brandon Taylor poured in a career-high 29 points in Penn State’s last game – a 75-69 Las Vegas Classic third-place-game victory over Kent State – and leads the team in scoring (16.2 points) and rebounding (6.2). Guard Shep Garner (14.7 points) and forward Payton Banks (11.7) also are averaging double figures for the Nittany Lions, who are struggling with accuracy across the board, shooting 41.3 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from 3-point range and 67.1 percent from the free-throw stripe.
ABOUT MARYLAND (11-1): The Terrapins are averaging 80.2 points and are the only Big Ten team featuring five double-digit scoring averages with guard Melo Trimble, the conference’s preseason player of the year, leading the way with 14.8. Forward Robert Carter (13.0), center Diamond Stone (11.2), forward Jake Layman (11.0) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (10.8) also are in double digits for Maryland, which ranks third nationally with its 53.3-percent accuracy from the field. The 6-9 Carter is pacing the team in rebounding at 6.6 per game while Stone, a 6-11 freshman, is coming off a career scoring high with 16 points against Marshall.
1. Maryland leads the series 11-8 after winning each of the last three meetings, including 64-48 and 76-63 victories a season ago.
2. The Terrapins have struggled taking care of the ball with an average of 13.7 turnovers per game and are coming off their second-worst outing of the season with 19 against Marshall.
3. Penn State is 7-16 all-time in conference openers with its last win coming in 2010 at Indiana.
PREDICTION: Maryland 76, Penn State 64