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Maryland-Penn State final score: 3 things we learned from the Terps' 76-73 win

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Melo Trimble and Dez Wells starred, and Maryland finished a seasonal sweep of Penn State.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 19 Maryland men's basketball team lost a 13-point second half lead against Penn State on Saturday but delivered down the stretch, beating the host Nittany Lions, 76-73, for their first Big Ten road win since Jan. 10 at Purdue.

Despite relinquishing a sizable advantage, the Terrapins (21-5, 9-4 Big Ten) cobbled together just enough. Melo Trimble's free throws in the game's final minute provided the game's decisive points, and Penn State's D.J. Newbill missed a potential game-tying three-pointer just before the final buzzer. For Maryland, which beat Indiana by two points on Wednesday, it was a second-straight narrow escape.

For Maryland, guards Trimble and Dez Wells led the way. Trimble made a remarkable 12 of 12 foul shots en route to a 20-point, 6-rebound, 4-assist night. He only took six field goal attempts, and his assist totals could have been gaudier. Wells had 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, along with 6 rebounds of his own.

Offense defined the game's first half. Maryland shot 50 percent in the half until a half-court prayer by Evan Smotrycz at the buzzer, but Penn State's 4-0 offensive rebounding advantage helped the Nittany Lions to a 34-33 lead at halftime even as they only shot 14-of-35 themselves. Given that the Terrapins are, on average, an inch taller than the Lions, Penn State's domination of the offensive glass was perplexing. It allowed the hosts to lead throughout the half despite not firing on all cylinders at any point.

Maryland, though, opened the second half scorching. By the time the half was three minutes old, the Terps' one-point deficit was a five-point lead, paced by three quick baskets from Wells. Then Jake Layman hit an open three-pointer, and the five-point lead was eight, and Maryland had finally established some separation. A few minutes passed before Jared Nickens hit two three-pointers in half a minute, and Maryland's lead was a seemingly insurmountable 13 points.

Except it wasn't, because this was Maryland playing on the road – and by the time nine minutes remained, Penn State had drawn the score from 55-42 to a 60-all tie, with Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor hitting successive three-pointers, just a possession apart, to bring Penn State all the way back. Michael Cekovsky had already missed two free throws, and then Layman missed two more, and then Penn State even pulled back in front, throwing Maryland's half-opening surge fully into the rear view.

Maryland jumped back in front and led by two points heading into the game's final two minutes, paced by a run of free throws and a couple of major defensive stops. The Terps held that lead at the foul line, with four Trimble free throws in the final 20 seconds of the game sealing Maryland's win.

Three things we learned

1. Maryland's offense showed encouraging signs. The Terps haven't passed the ball that crisply in weeks, and they were rewarded with a series of open shots. Maryland's 9-of-19 three-point showing was owed mostly to excellent playmaking on the part of its guards – Wells, Trimble and Dion Wiley in particular – while Evan Smotrycz continued a trend of improvement as a post passer. Maryland's guards were uniformly efficient, too, with Wells and Trimble making 11 of 16 shots from the field and gobs of free throws.

2. Offensive rebounding has been problematic. It's not unexpected that Maryland, which usually plays with three guards, might struggle from time to time on the glass. But the Terps have done an all-around lousy job rebounding lately, and they paid for it on Saturday. Offensive boards are the best measure of a team's rebounding ability, because they control for opponents' shooting percentages and isolate a team's ability to create extra chances for itself. Lately, Maryland's done almost none of that. The Terps lost the offensive rebound count to Penn State, 8-2, setting themselves back immensely. It has been a trend; Maryland entered Saturday ranking 10th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage in conference play, getting only 27.9 percent of their misses. Indiana almost beat Maryland last Wednesday based on a seven-rebound edge on offense.

3. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble were great, together. The senior and freshman guard are two of Maryland's three best players, but it's been a precious rarity to find both in top form during the same game (The last time it happened was in the final four minutes of Maryland's comeback against Northwestern on Jan. 25). On Saturday, both were at their best, combining to shoot 11-of-16 from the field and score an incredibly efficient 42 points. At his best, Wells is a menace made of controlled aggression and athleticism who finishes around the rim, while Trimble is a jack-of-all-trades foul shooter, scorer and playmaker. Each man was just that, just when Maryland needed it.