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State College, Pa. — Penn State is trying to avoid a last-place finish in the Big Ten, but the Nittany Lions aren’t playing like a team that looks like it belongs there right now.

Lamar Stevens scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, and Penn State had an easy time with No. 17 Maryland in a 78-61 win on Wednesday night.

Myles Dread had 17 points and Myreon Jones added 10 for the Nittany Lions (12-16, 5-12 Big Ten), who led for all but 51 seconds to win their third in a row and fourth of five.

“We knew we were talented,” Stevens said. “It’s just another level of toughness and focus that you have to dial in to win in this league.”

The Nittany Lions channeled both against the Terrapins (21-8, 12-6).

They took control in the first half with possibly their best 20 minutes of play since they won the NIT last season. Penn State forced eight turnovers, turned them into 12 points and took the lead for good with a 13-2 run that broke a 3-3 tie less than two minutes in.

Dread was 3 for 6 from beyond the arc in the half while Josh Reaves and Myreon Jones added back-to-back 3-pointers over the final 1:36. John Harrar made a layup, drew a foul and hit his free throw to give Penn State a 42-20 lead at halftime.

“If you go back and watch us in November and December and now you watch us, that’s growth,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “You want to be the best you can be by the end of the year and we’re doing that.”

Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland (21-8, 12-6) with 15 points, and Aaron Wiggins chipped in 11.

“We weren’t very good from the beginning to the end tonight,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “I’m going to take all the blame for that. I don’t know what we did different, but we weren’t very good.”

Penn State led by 29 at one point in the second half.

(At) No. 14 Purdue 73, Illinois 56: Carsen Edwards broke out of a shooting slump to score 23 points, and No. 14 Purdue got its fourth straight victory.

Edwards went 8 of 14 from the field for the Boilermakers (21-7, 14-3 Big Ten), who moved into a tie atop the conference with No. 6 Michigan State. The All-American guard made 7 of his 40 attempts in the previous two games.

Matt Haarms had 21 points on 8-of-8 shooting, 10 rebounds and five blocks for Purdue.

Ayo Dosunu and Andres Feliz led cold-shooting Illinois (10-18, 6-11) with nine points apiece.

Top 25

(At) No. 2 Virginia 81, Georgia Tech 51: Ty Jerome scored 19 points, De’Andre Hunter had 18 and No. 2 Virginia took command with a 25-4 first-half run. The Cavaliers (25-2, 13-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed 11-7 before a 3-pointer by Braxton Key sparked the eight-minute surge. Hunter had nine points, Kyle Guy six and Jerome five in the burst. Virginia’s lead was 41-22 at halftime and 51-24 after a 10-2 run to start the second half.

Jose Alvarado scored 12 and James Banks III had 11 for the Yellow Jackets (12-17, 4-12), who lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games. Georgia Tech also got a full dose of Virginia’s all-around efficiency as the Cavaliers shot 55.6 percent (30 of 54), made nine 3-pointers and limited the Yellow Jackets to just five 3-pointers (in 17 attempts) and 37.5 percent shooting overall (21 of 56).

No. 7 Tennessee 73, (at) Mississippi 71: Grant Williams scored 21 points, including the go-ahead basket with four seconds left, to lift Tennessee over Mississippi.

Tennessee (25-3, 13-2 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from a tough loss to LSU on Saturday with a hard-fought victory. The Volunteers remain in a three-way tie atop the SEC with LSU and Kentucky.

The Volunteers trailed 39-34 at halftime, but used a 14-0 run early in the second half to jump back ahead. Ole Miss wouldn’t go away, pushing in front 58-57 on Terence Davis’ 3-pointer with 10 minutes left.

From that point forward, it was a back-and-forth struggle. Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree missed the front end of a one-and-one with 18 seconds remaining, Tennessee grabbed the rebound and Williams hit a driving layup in the lane to make it 72-71.

Ole Miss (19-9, 9-6) had one more opportunity in the final seconds, but Devontae Shuler was called for a charge while shooting a deep 3-pointer with a second left. Tyree and Davis led the Rebels with 16 points each.

No. 8 Houston 99, (at) East Carolina 65: Corey Davis Jr. matched his career high with 26 points to help Houston beat East Carolina in a game that included multiple technical fouls against the Pirates and three ejections after halftime.

Fabian White Jr. added 16 points for the Cougars (27-1, 14-1 American Athletic Conference), who shot 60 percent. They made 13 of 28 3-pointers, which followed a 16-for-24 effort during last month’s 44-point rout in the first meeting.

Seth LeDay had 17 points for the Pirates (10-17, 3-12), who trailed 45-31 by the break and never recovered.

Things got away from them during an ugly sequence early in the second half filled with technical fouls, all involving ECU. Coach Joe Dooley and sophomore guard Shawn Williams were ejected along with a fan during a stretch that had the home crowd irate with officials – and some throwing trash toward the court.

(At) Villanova 67, No. 10 Marquette 61: Jermaine Samuels scored a career-high 29 points and defending national champion Villanova snapped a three-game losing streak.

Saddiq Bey hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:31 left to help the Wildcats (21-8, 12-4 Big East) keep their hopes alive for a conference title with a needed win in their final game of the season at their on-campus arena.

Markus Howard scored 25 points for the Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3), who would have secured both a share of the Big East title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a victory.

(At) No. 11 Texas Tech 84, Oklahoma State 80, OT: Davide Moretti had 20 points, including four free throws in the final 18 seconds of overtime, and Texas Tech escaped Oklahoma State to move into a share of the Big 12 lead.

Jarrett Culver had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Raiders (23-5, 11-5), who four days earlier had a dominating 29-point home win over Kansas. They blew a 14-point lead in the second half against Oklahoma State (10-18, 3-12), which is tied with West Virginia at the bottom of the conference standings.

The win put the Red Raiders into a first-place tie with No. 16 Kansas State.

Lindy Waters hit four 3-pointers in the final 55 seconds of regulation and finished with 26 points for Oklahoma State.

(At) No. 12 Nevada 89, UNLV 73:  Caleb Martin scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Nevada cruised to victory against in-state rival UNLV. Cody Martin added a season-high 23 points and eight assists for the Wolf Pack. Jordan Caroline had 20 points and 12 rebounds, his 16th double-double this season.

UNLV outrebounded Nevada 40-28 but committed 17 turnovers to the Wolf Pack’s eight.

Nevada shot 53.3 percent from the floor. The Martin twins combined for 10 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Nevada (26-2, 13-2 Mountain West Conference) never trailed and entered the break up 46-28.

Amauri Hardy led UNLV (15-13, 9-7) with 19 points. Kris Clyburn scored 18 and Noah Robotham had 16.

No. 23 Cincinnati 52, (at) SMU 49: Rashawn Fredericks put Cincinnati ahead to stay with his only two field goals, and the Bearcats overcame a horrible shooting night to beat SMU.

Fredericks finished with six points for the Bearcats (24-4, 13-2 American Athletic Conference), and his consecutive layups midway through the second half made it 36-33. That was part of an 8-0 run, and Cincinnati never trailed again despite shooting a season-low 26.6 percent (17 of 64) from the field.

Jarron Cumberland led Cincinnati with 12 points.

Jahmal McMurray had 27 points for SMU (13-14, 5-10), which has lost seven of eight.

State women

(At) Michigan State 57, Penn State 48: The Spartans (19-9, 9-8 Big Ten) used a 19-9 edge in the third quarter to take a commanding, 51-33 lead. Nia Clouden scored 14, Sidney Cooks 12 and Shay Colley 10 for Michigan State. Lauren Ebo scored 13 for Penn State (12-16, 5-12).

Central Michigan 81, (at) Ball State 64: Reyna Frost scored 28, Presley Hudson 18 and Micaela Kelly 16 for Central Michigan (21-6, 12-3 Mid-American Conference). Ball State is (7-20, 2-13).

(At) Northern Illinois 70, Eastern Michigan 60: Courtnie Lewis scored 18 and Corrione Vardwell and Natalia Pineda 11 each for Eastern (12-14, 5-10 MAC). NIU is 17-10, 9-6.

(At) Toledo 73, Western Michigan 63: Deja Wimby scored 24 and Kamrin Reed 14 for Western (9-17, 3-12 MAC). Toledo is 17-9, 9-6).

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