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Reversal of fortune: Lions show they can win from behind, keep NIT hopes alive

Photo from Penn State Twitter: Seth Lundy

OK, so let me get this straight: Penn State has had substantial leads in numerous games this season, only to blow them time and again and lose.

But after falling behind 12-0 to start the game and trailing by 16 points Sunday night at Maryland, the Nittany Lions somehow found a way to … win????

Man, sports just don’t make sense.

Neither, at times, does this PSU basketball team.

Here’s another example. The reason Penn State won Sunday night was because Seth Lundy erupted for 31 points. How crazy was that?

Lundy had scored a TOTAL of 30 points in his previous seven games, and that includes a couple of bagels against Purdue and Michigan State.

All things considered, Penn State pulled off a stunning 66-61 win at Maryland. It was an excellent victory for the Nittany Lions. And make no mistake, it was an awful loss for the Terps, who could have pretty much locked up an NCAA Tournament berth with a victory, but now have to sweat a little bit more after blowing a 16-point lead on senior night in the Big Ten regular-season finale.

Maryland is 15-12 overall and went 9-11 in the Big Ten, the nation’s best conference, so it still should be in the field of 68 — barely — heading into the Big Ten Tournament this week.

What it means: Penn State is not in the field of 68. The Lions were on the bubble a couple of weeks ago, but after finishing 7-12 in the Big Ten and 10-13 overall, the only way PSU will go dancing would be to win the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State still has a chance, though, to get into the NIT because it does have a nice resume with good wins and a solid NET rating (No. 48). If the Lions can win two games in the Big Ten Tournament, they would be in a decent position to get an NIT bid.

Up next: PSU is the No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play No. 14 seed Nebraska on Wednesday. If the Lions win that, they’d play No. 6 seed Wisconsin in the second round. Iowa would await in the third round, if it gets that far.

If Penn State could beat Nebraska and Wisconsin and lose to Iowa, they’d be 12-14 overall and would have gone 9-13 against Big Ten competition. That may or may not be enough to sneak into the NIT.

Lundy’s huge game: Lundy has been up and down all season. He had 32 points in the second game against VCU and 23 the next game against Seton Hall. Then he disappeared, starting with a zero-point effort in a win at Virginia Tech.

That’s just the way the season has gone for Lundy.

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He had done very little the past few weeks, hitting double digits in scoring just one time in his past 10 games (12 against Ohio State on Feb. 18).

But on this night, Lundy is pretty much the only reason Penn State won the game.

The Lions scored just 66 points, and Lundy had 31 of them. PSU fell behind 12-0, and when it was 16-9, Lundy had scored all nine points. He kept the team in the game long enough for everyone else to finally wake up.

Then Lundy came through down the stretch, as well.  His bucket in the lane gave PSU its first lead, 58-57, with 1:23 remaining, and on the next trip down, he drilled a 3-pointer to make it 61-57 with 32 seconds to go.

Lundy came off the bench in the game, and shot 11-of-18 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3 and 4-of-5 from the FT line.

Unbalanced effort: The only other PSU player in double figures was Myreon Jones, who had 17 points. No one else scored more than 7.

So, in a nutshell, while Jim Ferry called it “a great team win,” the truth of the matter is the Lions won because Lundy got very hot and Jones scored enough to help make it matter.

Season sweep: Maryland probably is going to the NCAA Tournament, but the Lions swept the Terps. PSU won the first game at home, 55-50, last month.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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