Maryland men’s basketball looked to Jahmir Young and Julian Reese throughout its Big Ten home opener against Penn State with the duo’s supporting cast struggling on offense.
In the final minutes of the close game, the Terps played almost solely through them. Young and Reese consistently drove to the basket, got to the foul line and delivered. But after a Jahari Long foul put Penn State at the line with four seconds remaining and allowed the Nittany Lions to send the game to overtime, the rest of Maryland’s team stepped up.
Donta Scott and DeShawn Harris-Smith both drove to the basket and scored crucial and-one layups in the extra period after combining to shoot 2-for-15 from the field beforehand.
Reese and Young combined to score 52 points, and timely contributions from their teammates in overtime powered Maryland men’s basketball to an 81-75 win over Penn State at Xfinity Center on Wednesday.
The Terps improved to 21-1 and remained undefeated at home in conference play under coach Kevin Willard with their first win against a high-major opponent this season.
“Any time you win a conference game … you’re just relieved you won a conference game,” Willard said. “Just looking at our numbers, there’s really no joy right now. I’m happy we won and glad that we pulled it out and happy for these kids that worked so hard, but we just have a lot of stuff we have to fix.”
Maryland (5-4) has struggled with slow starts on the road under Willard and suffered one at Indiana on Friday in its Big Ten opener. A return to College Park against an opponent on a four-game losing streak offered an opportunity for a quick start, but the Terps didn’t generate anything consistent on offense early.
Willard’s squad turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes to start the game and scored just nine points in the opening 11 minutes. The Terps trailed by 11 halfway through the first half. Their disjointed offense looked to Young and Reese for a solution.
The duo powered a quick 7-0 run that cut the 11-point deficit to four. Reese and Young combined to shoot 6-for-11 in the opening half and scored 17 of Maryland’s 28 first-half points. The rest of the team went 3-for-21 from the field as the Terps labored on offense throughout the opening 20 minutes.
Despite shooting 28.1 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from deep, Reese, Young and a Maryland defense that allowed just 10 points in the final 10 minutes of the half helped the Terps enter the break trailing by just two. Reese drew 13 fouls and finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds while Young’s 28 points were his second most in his Maryland career.
“After tonight we can see how we can battle through adversity and stay together, especially when the game probably should have been over earlier,” said Reese, who helped the Terps out-rebound Penn State 53 to 31 on Wednesday. “We were able to take care of business in overtime.”
But Maryland lethargic offense and poor shooting continued well into the second half. After taking their first lead of the game early on, the Terps went scoreless for more than five minutes. Kanye Clary sparked a 9-0 Penn State run that put Maryland in a seven-point hole.
Clary notched a career-high 17 points in the Nittany Lions’ loss at Maryland last season. He scored a team-high 25 on 8-for-17 shooting. The sophomore wasn’t the only player to have a productive return to Xfinity Center — former Terp Qudus Wahab scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds before fouling out against his former team after transferring back to Georgetown last season and to Penn State (4-5) this year.
Harris-Smith ended the Terps’ scoring drought with his first points of the game midway through the second half. A Reese jumper and a Young three-pointer marked three straight makes after five consecutive misses, which put the Terps back within one point of the Nittany Lions.
Maryland and Penn State traded the lead back and forth down the stretch, but a Jahari Long foul with four seconds remaining put Maryland native Ace Baldwin Jr. on the free throw line. He drained both attempts to tie the game at 71 and send it to overtime.
The Terps shutout the Nittany Lions for the first three minutes of overtime and relied on a variety of players overcoming poor runs of shooting in the game’s most important moments.
Jamie Kaiser Jr., who recorded career highs in minutes, points and steals, hit an important three-pointer near the end of regulation, and the tough layups from Scott and Harris-Smith lifted Maryland to an overtime victory in its Big Ten opener.
“Nothing you really do in high school can prepare you for these moments, but those plays that we made were just the confidence that we had in ourselves but also confidence coach Willard has in us too,” Kaiser Jr. said. “We’ve been struggling these last couple games but he’s just so confident in us to go make plays so we don’t even think about making a mistake.”