STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State is trying to avoid a last-place finish in the Big Ten, but the Nittany Lions aren’t playing like a team that looks like it belongs there right now.
Lamar Stevens scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, and Penn State had an easy time with No. 17 Maryland in a 78-61 win on Wednesday night.
Myles Dread had 17 points and Myreon Jones added 10 for the Nittany Lions (12-16, 5-12 Big Ten), who led for all but 51 seconds to win their third in a row and fourth of five.
“We knew we were talented,” Stevens said. “It’s just another level of toughness and focus that you have to dial in to win in this league.”
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The Nittany Lions channeled both against the Terrapins (21-8, 12-6).
They took control in the first half with possibly their best 20 minutes of play since they won the NIT last season. Penn State forced eight turnovers, turned them into 12 points and took the lead for good with a 13-2 run that broke a 3-3 tie less than two minutes in.
Dread was 3 for 6 from beyond the arc in the half while Josh Reaves and Myreon Jones added back-to-back 3-pointers over the final 1:36. John Harrar made a layup, drew a foul and hit his free throw to give Penn State a 42-20 lead at halftime.
“If you go back and watch us in November and December and now you watch us, that’s growth,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “You want to be the best you can be by the end of the year and we’re doing that.”
Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland (21-8, 12-6) with 15 points, and Aaron Wiggins chipped in 11.
“We weren’t very good from the beginning to the end tonight,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “I’m going to take all the blame for that. I don’t know what we did different, but we weren’t very good.”
Penn State led by 29 at one point in the second half.
Reaves opened the game with a steal, swiping the ball from Darryl Morsell before dishing to Dread, who started the scoring with a 3-pointer.
The second-half start was worse for Maryland. Stevens drew an early foul before Reaves foiled the Terps’ next possession with another of his four steals on the night. Less than five minutes later, Stevens dunked to give Penn State a 49-24 lead and prompt Turgeon to send five fresh players to the scorers’ table.
“I was just searching,” Turgeon said. “We fouled the shooter, turned it over our first possession, then we don’t run back on defense. That was about all I could take.”
Cowan, Maryland’s leading scorer at 16 points per game, was held off the scoreboard for the first 18 minutes before he made the Terps’ final bucket of the first half. He played the entire half.
Stevens has scored 20 or more points in eight of Penn State’s last 10 games. Jamari Wheeler’s seven assists tied his career high.
Maryland: The Terps will be glad to be done with their road schedule. They went just 5-5 as the visitors and were outscored by double digits three times.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions are looking more like the team many thought they’d be earlier in the season. They hadn’t won three straight regular-season games in over a year.
Maryland: Hosts No. 9 Michigan on Sunday.
Penn State: Visits No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday.
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