What was once a nine-goal Penn State lead had been cut to five late in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions needed a goal to halt Maryland’s run.

Luke Mercer delivered. He fired a strike into the back of the net despite Colin Burlace’s stick blocking his line of sight.

Will Schaller put his hands on his hip. Burlace and AJ Larkin sank their heads. The Terps’ best stretch quickly vanished.

Three-seed Penn State dominated two-seed Maryland men’s lacrosse from the opening faceoff Thursday night. The Terps were outplayed on both ends of the field, falling miserably to the Nittany Lions in Columbus, 19-9. The loss was Maryland’s largest this season.

“Just not a good night … just put ourselves behind the eight ball,” coach John Tillman said.

The Terps’ (8-5) defense — a unit that entered the night as the 12th-best scoring defense among all Division I schools — allowed a season-high 19 goals. Nine different Nittany Lions scored, with five players recording at least two goals. Matt Traynor led the way with five goals.

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Goalkeeper Logan McNaney failed to defend the cage with much success in both halves. He saved just 35 percent of Penn State’s shots on goal over the first two quarters — permitting an 11-goal Nittany Lions first half — and saved 27 percent of the looks against him after halftime.

McNaney ended with a season worst 29.6 percent save rate.

Maryland’s offense floundered against the nation’s seventh-best scoring defense. Daniel Maltz and Eric Spanos were the lone Terps to record multiple goals. The unit shot just 22.5 percent — its 12th game out of 13 contests this season with a shooting rate below 40 percent.

The Nittany Lions (11-3) started the scoring early, striking less than two minutes in. They led for the remainder of the game, holding a multiple-goal advantage over the final 51:29.

The Terps scored just three goals in the first half. Their best stretch came in the third quarter when Maltz, Daniel Kelly, Luke Wierman and Ajax Zappitello all struck within a three-minute span.

But Mercer’s second goal of the night shortly halted the run. The score started a five-goal Penn State run to grow its lead back to 10.

Maryland’s scoring leader, Braden Erksa, exited the contest midway through the second quarter. He took a heavy hit on a shot attempt, falling hard on the back of his neck and head. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and did not return to the game.

“It’s always tough when a guy goes down … I think sometimes your emotions take over,” Tillman said. “You always want to play with emotion but you don’t want to be emotional. I feel like at times we did get emotional and that just compounded things.”

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Tillman said Tuesday that Maryland’s stick work needed to improve against Penn State. He felt the Terps had silly turnovers in their regular season finale, a 7-5 loss to Johns Hopkins.

The unit didn’t accomplish Tillman’s wish early on — each of Maryland’s first four offensive possessions ended in turnovers. The Terps appeared to have a look near the cage on their first possession, but Will Costin thwarted the opportunity with strong stick defense.

Wierman’s first win at the X came after Mac Costin scored the Nittany Lions’ third goal of the night. Costin, Traynor and TJ Malone all scored over the first 11 minutes of the contest.

Kyle Lehman added Penn State’s fourth first-quarter goal shortly after with a behind-the-back look right before the shot clock expired. Malone added a second score just 16 seconds into the second period to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to four.

Penn State’s depth was a key factor in its early offensive success. Seven players scored, headlined by Costin’s first-half hat trick. The Nittany Lions scored in a variety of ways. They attacked both the interior and exterior of the Terps’ defense, scoring with ease over the first 30 minutes.

Penn State continued its offensive prowess in the second half. It added eight more goals to secure the win.

The result halted Maryland’s historical success in the Big Ten tournament, failing to advance to the title game for just the third time in nine tournaments. The Terps will await their spot in the NCAA tournament, with the selection show on Sunday.

“I don’t care the time of year, there’s always opportunities to get better,” Tillman said.