Hakim Hart’s 23 points leads Maryland over Penn State

Maryland basketball fended off a second-half Penn State comeback attempt to defeat the Nittany Lions, 74-68, Saturday afternoon in College Park. The Terps remain undefeated at home in Big Ten play with the victory, having won all seven matchups at the Xfinity Center.

Senior guard Hakim Hart has been solid all season long, but his performance on Saturday was crucial to Maryland’s victory.

“Being a leader of this team means a lot to me,” Hart said. “I’ve been here for four years and I just want to do great things and win championships.”

Hart was the catalyst all day long for the Terps, stuffing the stat sheet with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. The 23 points are the most Hart has scored against a Big Ten opponent in his career.

“He was aggressive,” Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “He’s such a good passer that he scares you when he gets to the middle, … he put his head down and got to the rim a little bit more. I think that’s where he’s really good. He’s got good size, he’s got great ball-handling ability, … I’m sure he’s got a lot more of these games coming for him.”

In Tuesday’s loss at Michigan State, Maryland found itself down 15-0 in the game’s opening minutes and was forced to claw its way out of a hole in the eventual five-point loss to the Spartans.

Saturday’s game began much differently, as Donta Scott drilled a three just over 20 seconds into the first half, putting to rest any thoughts of another offensive lull in the opening minutes.

Maryland grabbed an early 11-3 lead, as Penn State began the game ice-cold from the field, connecting on only one of its first 10 shots. The Terps found themselves up 21-9 just over halfway through the first half thanks to multiple Penn State turnovers and sluggish offensive play. Maryland forced 10 first half turnovers.

It took Maryland less than one half of play to match last game’s three-point total, as Don Carey ripped a corner three with 7:22 to go in the first half for their third of the game. The Terps shot 3-22 in Tuesday’s loss.

Penn State turned things around in the final minutes of the first half, shooting a red-hot 10-14 from the field. The Nittany Lions went 6-11 from three-point range in the first half to find themselves down 31-28 at the break.

The second half was all about the performances of Hart and senior guard Jahmir Young.

“Hakim is like the heart of the team,” Young said. “He does all of the little stuff, especially defensively, so to see him get going like that on offense, … really just trying to get him the ball and let him work, … we were all feeding off of him.”

Young was quiet offensively in the early stages, failing to score until there was just over a minute left in the first half. Despite his scoring struggles, his improving ability as a point guard allowed him to impact the game in other ways.

“[Young] was working really hard,” Willard said. “You’re asking a lot for him to [guard Pickett] and do stuff on the offensive end.”

Young finished with 18 points and four assists.

Penn State leaned on senior guard Jalen Pickett, who scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half to give the Nittany Lions a lead. He finished with 15 points and five assists.

Penn State continued its hot three-point shooting throughout the second half, as three different players connected on at least three 3-pointers. The teams traded baskets in the ensuing minutes, as a Seth Lundy three brought Penn State to within a point with 8:48 to play.

When it mattered most, Maryland relied on its offense to close the door on this Penn State comeback attempt. The Terps used a 9-0 run to build a 12-point lead with just over two minutes to play.

A dazzling crossover and dime from Hart led to an Ian Martinez slam, which sent the Xfinity Center into a frenzy.

“This building rocks, man,” Willard said. “It has really, really helped us. The students are into it, they’re loud, … it’s a great home court. You need it in this league because winning on the road in this conference is unlike anything I have experienced.”

Maryland will hope to lean on its crowd on Thursday, as the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers come to town for a big-time clash.

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