COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Terrapins went with Stone.
In a gem of a game, freshman Diamond Stone saved the Terrapins with an astounding 39-point, 12-rebound performance in a 70-64 victory over Penn State Dec. 30 at Xfinity Center that had long-time Terrapin fans trying to recall the best big men performances in Maryland history.
“I knew I was in a zone but I didn’t know about the points total,” said Stone. “I just wanted to win. I just figured that if I keep going, keep being aggressive, maybe we can take the lead and that’s what happened.”
Stone’s 39 points, 32 in the second half to bring fourth-ranked Maryland (12-1, 1-0) back from 13 down against 15-point underdog Penn State, broke Joe Smith’s school freshman record of 33 points.
“I think Diamond likes the bright lights, he likes the big stage,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “He likes to be challenged and we were extremely challenged today.”
The Terrapins trailed by 13 with under seven minutes to play in their Big Ten opener and had fallen into that rock and hard place spot thanks to a multitude of bricks The third-leading field goal percentage team in the country shot just 33.3 percent on the afternoon, and that was with a torrid finish.
“It was surprising because we make shots all the time,” said Robert Carter, Jr., who was just 4-of-10 from the field but hit a big three in the end. “Coach always tells us that we’re not going to make every shot even though we don’t want to believe him but tonight was one of those nights we couldn’t get things to go. We figured it out. We picked it up on defense and we got on the offensive glass like you saw with Diamond and we dumped it off to him.”
Stone, who hadn’t started the last six games, was in to start the second half as Turgeon opted to use his offense to speed steady Penn State (9-5, 0-1) and try to turn the game around. Stone was the one thing that worked all day. The 6-11, 255-pound frosh hit 10-of-15 shots, 19-of-25 at the line, and got eight of his rebounds on the offensive end in a game where Penn State (9-5, 0-1) bullied the Terrapins much of the contest.
“He’s big and he can finish,” said Carter of his teammate. “He has great hands. He made the right play. When you drive to the basket and his man steps up, you dump it off and he scores or gets to the free throw line. That was what was working tonight. We weren’t making shots so that’s what we did.”
“I thought (Stone) went clean to the glass and played hard,” said Penn State coach Pat Chambers. “He had eight offensive rebounds. He has a nose for the ball, and the ball is attracted to him. He made some big-time plays. He’s a physical kid and has a lot of talent.”
Down by those 13 with 6:19 to play, Stone really started to show those skills. He hit two free throws to start a furious 15-2 run, in which he had nine points.
After a Carter steal he scored on a goaltend after a Melo Trimble feed on the break, and then he got a steal in the press and lumbered in, made a twinkle toes move to avoid the charge and ended up with a three-point play at 5:35 to make it 58-52, and a game that had looked lost suddenly came back into focus.
“I just thought he was going to pass it there and he did,” aid Stone. “I just went to the hole. I made an athletic move, sidestepped, he fouled me and I made it. I believed in myself and thought I could help the team win.”
Turgeon called it the key play in the game. “We all started to believe at that point.”
Then Trimble finally hit a 3-pointer, Maryland’s first of the second half, at 5:17, and then though he missed his next one, Stone dunked it in for him. Shep Garner missed at the other end, and Trimble came down and drilled another three to tie the score at 60 at 3:47.
Now with the seventh sellout crowd of the season going bonkers, Maryland had all the momentum. Garner, en route to 17 points, hit two free throws to put PSU back ahead but Stone scored inside from Trimble. Penn State missed again and Stone got two more free throws to put Maryland up for good, 64-62, at 2:12.
But the big freshman wasn’t done. Two more free throws made it a four-point game, and then Brandon Taylor hit a ridiculous reverse layup and it was 66-64 with 57 seconds remaining.
Maryland hit just 5-of-21 3-point attempts, but all three in the second half came in the last 5:17, including a cold-blooded, no-hesitation bomb with 32 seconds left from Carter, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. After one more Stone free throw, Jake Layman, one of Maryland’s struggling shooters, came up with a defensive play, blocking Payton Banks’ layup and Rasheed Sulaimon gobbled up the rebound and dribbled out the clock.
Sulaimon also best summed up Stone’s performance. “He saved our butts.”
The had Terrapins led 40-39 when Penn State put together a 7-0 run. The 6-6 Taylor, who was a nightmare matchup the whole game, bounced outside and drilled a 3-pointer at 13:16 to put the Nittany Lions back in front. Banks got two free throws after a Stone air-ball, then Davis Zemgulis scored on a drive to make it 46-40 with 12:04 left.
Stone hit two free throws total on back-to-back trips to the free throw line but a Zemgulis three helped Penn State start to pull away again. The Terrapins missed their first nine 3-point attempts of the second half and they missed four in a row as Penn State build the lead to 58-45 at 6:57 when Jack Donovon scored inside.
“Down 13 with six to go, it didn’t look very good,” said Turgeon. “Not a lot gong and couldn’t make a shot.”
The cold-shooting Terrapins had opened the second half on a 10-2 run that tied the game when Stone dunked off a Trimble feed. Stone, who started the second half, scored eight of those 10 points, including another dunk on the preceding possession. Carter had scored on a drive, was fouled but missed the free throw. Trimble got the long rebound and found Stone uncovered for the slam, one of Melo’s six assists to go with 10 points on a day he hit just three of 15 shots (2-of-7 from three), and got to the free throw line just once.
Trimble missed a shot but Carter came charging down the lane to slam it home for a 37-36 Terrapin lead at 16:39, Maryland’s first lead since 11:37 of the first half, though Penn State would battle back and put the Terrapins in an even deeper hole.
“What I was most of proud of was we got going downhill a little bit and we really executed,” said Turgeon. “We ran some stuff late in the game and we haven’t had to do a lot of that.”
The Terrapins were just 19-of-57 from the field, their fewest makes this season. After some early woes on the glass, Maryland had a 41-31 rebounding advantage, turning the tables in a strong second half led by Stone’s career high 12.
Layman finished with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting. Sulaimon had just one point on 0-for-5 shooting and two assists, but his defense was stellar in the second half as Maryland held PSU to 37 percent shooting. Turgeon credited him with wearing Garner down in the second half.
Jared Nicken was 0-for-5 off the bench but Maryland still had a 39-to-16 edge in bench scoring, all by Stone. In addition to breaking Smith’s freshman scoring mark, he broke the Xfinity Center record of 38 points set by Wake Forest’s Justin Gray in 2006 (Greivis Vasquez and Nik Caner-Medley each had 35 for Maryland).
He also set school records with 19 made free throws and 25 attempts, breaking marks held by Tom McMillen (17 makes vs. Canisus in 1971), and Keith Booth (24 attempts against George Washington in 1996).
The free throws were also Xfinity records, breaking the marks held by Bambale Osby, who hit 14-of-20 against Northeastern in a 2007 game.
“I don’t pay too much mind to it,” said Stone. “This is just a regular game for me. It just means a lot to get this first (conference) win.”
Now after surviving at home, Maryland takes to the road Jan. 2 to play at Northwestern, beginning a skein of three road games in four starts. Maryland is home to Rutgers on Jan. 6.
Maryland shot just 25 percent in the first half to dig a 31-23 hole, just the third time the Terps trailed at the break. The Terrapins hit only 6-of-24 shots, and were only 2-of-8 from 3-point range. Only 9-of-14 shooting at the free throw line kept Maryland within shouting distance.
The Nittany Lions had a lot to do with those dismal numbers, consistently out-hustling the Terrapins to the tune of a 19-13 rebounding advantage at the half. Maryland had led 12-7, when Stone came off the bench and gave the team a lift, turning that rebounding deficit a bit and scoring five of eight Terp points over one stretch in a bit of a foreshadowing.
But then Maryland began working on its minimum daily requirement of iron. They missed seven straight shots, led by some poor choices by Carter, and Penn State took a 14-12 lead at 11:37 on Garner’s 3-pointer.
Maryland went nine minutes, five seconds without a field goal but did hit some free throws and trailed just 20-17 at 4:46 when Trimble scored on an incredible drive and scoop.
“That was as bad as we’ve been offensively all year by a long shot,” said Turgeon.
But Penn State ran off the next six points, Donovon scoring inside, Taylor scoring on a drive over Layman and then Garner, on his way to 12 points at the break, scoring on a drive to make it 26-17 at the 3-minute mark.
Maryland got it back down to six, Stone, who had seven first half points, hitting two free throws at 24.2 seconds to make it 29-23. But Garner drew a foul from Sulaimon at 6.8 seconds and hit both free throws. Trimble shot a desperation underhand scoop from just inside the 3-point arc at the buzzer.
Penn State gave Maryland several defensive looks, changing defenses most times down the court until sticking in that 2-3 much of the second half. The Terps aided and abetted with some poor shot selection early. Penn State had a 20-8 edge in points in the paint in the painful first half but finished with just a 32-26 edge in that department.