COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It was the best of Maryland and the worst of Maryland, handily condensed into one 40-minute package.
It was an ugly, inattentive, reckless first half. It was a brief second-half burst followed by 10 more minutes of disconcerting drought.
Then, suddenly, it was Melo Trimble, after burying back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 60-all in the final minutes, nodding his head in confirmation on his way back down the court. And it was freshman center Diamond Stone, enjoying the coming-out party of a lifetime, in a 70-64 win over Penn State.
Say hello to Stone
Before Wednesday, Stone was having a promising freshman season. He was averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He was getting about 18.8 minutes on the floor each night. He was sharing responsibilities with veteran big men Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky. His defense, while improving, was keeping him from taking over more of those minutes, and truly living up to his lottery-pick talent.
Those days are probably over.
On Wednesday, Stone had 39 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 10-of-15 from the field and 19-of-25 from the free throw line. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, Stone scored 39 of Maryland's 70 total points. Yes, he was that unstoppable, and that relentless, and yes -- 32 of those points and seven of those rebounds came in the second half.
Maryland doesn't get close to winning this game without Stone, and that's not a thing the Terps have been able to say yet this season. As close and unnerving as the victory was, there could be few better signs of the Terps' overall progress than Stone's sudden and incredible emergence Wednesday.
Maryland has to be more consistent
A simple glance at any first-half box score could tell you this much, and how: Maryland made three of its first 20 shots, finished the first half 6-of-24 from the field and 2-of-8 from 3-point range and averaged .697 points per trip, all of which qualifies as abysmal. But it was an entirely different experience to actually see, particularly in the Xfinity Center, surrounded by thousands of Maryland's typically irrepressible fans. Maryland just looked … careless? Half-awake? Both?
There were open misses, sure, but there was also a shocking lack of movement, spacing, and visible enthusiasm. For a team that entered the arena Monday sporting the nation's second-highest two-point field goal percentage (61.0) and making 41.1 percent of its 3s, this was more than a simple off-night.
It wasn't until after halftime -- and a presumably spirited conversation with coach Mark Turgeon -- that the usual Terps came to play. Almost immediately, Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon were active and aggressive; almost immediately, Robert Carter was diving at the rim, Jake Layman was winning a loose ball rebound and Trimble was finding Stone for the back-to-back dunks that tied the game at 33 after just two minutes and 34 seconds of play.
Portions of Maryland's second half were a helpful reminder of why the Terrapins are a national title contender. The rest was a display -- and not their first -- of how they often fail to act the part.
Penn State didn't back down
After seeing Maryland chew through his team's hard-earned, eight-point halftime lead in 150 seconds, Nittany Lions coach Pat Chambers called timeout, the Xfinity Center crowd went nuts, and order appeared to have been restored. Maryland would keep running at the rim. Penn State would fade. That would be that.
Not so much. On offense, the Nittany Lions were cautious, turnover-averse and opportunistic, seizing on interior opportunities and open 3s. Eleven minutes after Maryland's surge and Chambers' timeout, forward Donovon Jack scored a straightforward drop-step on the block and the Nittany Lions led 58-45 -- their largest lead of the game.
Maryland pulled ahead eventually. But it took them longer than anyone could have expected, and Chambers can't leave College Park unhappy with his team's effort or execution. In the end, Stone was simply too much.