Maryland men’s lacrosse has excelled in the Big Ten tournament since joining the conference before the 2015 season. The program has reached the Big Ten finals in six out of eight tournaments.

Both times Maryland failed to reach the championship, 2015 and 2019, it entered the tournament off a loss and played five days later.

This time, the Terps earned a week off.

Despite suffering a 7-5 loss to Johns Hopkins in the regular season finale, they beat Rutgers two weeks ago to secure a bye in the conference tournament’s quarterfinal round. Next, Maryland will play Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals on Thursday.

“That break mentally, and for some of the guys just getting a break physically, they could use it,” coach John Tillman said.

Maryland knew its possible semifinal opponents as soon as the regular season ended. The Terps were locked into facing either Rutgers or Penn State. Tillman said the bye week gave them the longest rest of the year and allowed them to start their preparation early.

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The break allowed for a full slate of practices and game planning ahead of the quarterfinal result.

The Terps looked at commonalities between the Scarlet Knights and Nittany Lions. Tillman watched the two teams face off, searching for differences from when Maryland faced the schools in the regular season. The coach noticed a distinction in the Nittany Lions’ man-up offense.

Against Maryland in March, Penn State’s best extra-man opportunity came in the second quarter. The Nittany Lions’ offense centered around outside passing, their closest shot in the sequence from Matt Traynor against three closing defenders.

On Saturday, the Nittany Lions scored three man-up goals against the Scarlet Knights. Their last goal epitomized the new-look offense.

Luke Walstrum fed the ball into the field to start the sequence. He then waited around the cage. After a few passes around the exterior of Rutgers’ defense, Walstrum capitalized on a close-range score.

The shot type wasn’t the only difference for Penn State. The players were too. Walstrum and Jake Morin were both on the field, unlike in the Nittany Lions’ second-quarter man-up scenario against the Terps.

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“It’s like, alright, what are they doing with that group that could be different?” Tillman said. “You want to prep up for that.”

Every Big Ten team faces each other during the regular season, creating rematches in the Big Ten tournament. That forces Tillman to look at film from both Maryland’s duel in the regular season and the opponent’s most recent games.

Tillman also wants a more well-rounded effort from his group. The Terps’ narrow win over Penn State on March 31 was predicated on a dominant six-goal fourth-period . They were down three goals entering the fourth quarter.

The Terps have historically dominated the Big Ten tournament with Tillman at the helm. Their four conference tournament championships account for half the overall titles since 2015.

A loss to Penn State on Thursday would halt Maryland’s chances for another championship and provide the Terps their fifth loss ahead of the NCAA tournament for a second straight season.

“It’s been a good year, I wouldn’t say it’s been great,” Tillman said. “I think it’s never too late to keep trying to tinker and evolve and get better.”