The Maryland men's basketball team's sixth consecutive road loss had a familiar ending.
Trailing by three points with 29 seconds left, guard Anthony Cowan drove to the basket and missed a layup. Then, down by four points as the clock ticked below 10 seconds, Penn State blanketed guard Jared Nickens on the perimeter. He threw up a prayer, searching for his fourth 3-pointer of the game, and missed badly.
Coach Mark Turgeon crouched on the floor and rubbed his forehead, having witnessed yet another failure down the stretch. Maryland's 74-70 loss at Penn State, its sixth defeat in its past eight games, keeps the Terps near the bottom-half of the Big Ten standings.
"[Those are just] the plays I gotta finish," said Cowan, who finished with a team-high 15 points.
Maryland (16-10, 5-8 Big Ten) entered Wednesday worried how it would guard Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens with its decimated interior defense. Those concerns proved valid, as Stevens dominated with 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting.
"He made a lot of tough shots. He shoots better at home," guard Kevin Huerter said. "We were kind of playing him as a driver, making him take shots over our hand."
Turgeon said he hoped Penn State guard Tony Carr would endure a similar off-shooting night as his 6-for-23 performance in Maryland's 75-69 win over Penn State (17-9, 7-6) on Jan. 2. Instead, Carr went 4-for-6 from 3-point range en route to 16 points.
So, despite shooting 54 percent from the field Wednesday, Maryland chased the Nittany Lions down the stretch, and yet again proved incapable of earning a competitive road win.
"Couldn't really get a stop all game," Huerter said. "We didn't think we competed well in the first half in the defensive end."
Both teams' offenses clicked early, getting to the basket with ease before extending their ranges and finishing the first half with nine combined 3-pointers. But Maryland lost its rhythm entering halftime, scoring two points in the final 4:58 and allowing the Nittany Lions a six-point lead at intermission.
Maryland came within one in the second half but never fully erased the deficit.
"We just can't put ourselves in that position." Huerter said. "We've got to be better on the defensive end."
Penn State kept the Terps at distance until guard Jared Nickens' (13 points) 3-pointer cut the lead to three with 1:13 remaining.
The Nittany Lions missed the next bucket to give Maryland a chance, but Cowan and Nickens couldn't generate any offense in the game's final possessions. Maryland spent most of January chasing a quality road win and came up short, pushing the team to the outside of the NCAA tournament projections.
Beating Penn State would've fallen short of an impressive victory, and Wednesday's loss was just the latest disappointment in a season becoming littered with them.
"We had high expectations for the month of February," Nickens said. "We're not going to let that go away. We're going to keep high hopes."