The No. 17 Maryland men's basketball team got offensive infusions from sources expected and unexpected and held off plucky visitor Penn State for a 64-58 win at Xfinity Center Wednesday night.
Forward Jon Graham scored a career-high 16 points off the bench for the Terps, providing a crucial boost in his first appearance against the program he transferred out of two seasons ago. Dez Wells, a senior like Graham, had one of his best games as a Terrapin, leading the team with 23 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. Melo Trimble had a second-consecutive brutal scoring night and didn't make a shot from the field, but he led Maryland with 8 assists, seven of which came in the second half. Despite a quiet first half, Jake Layman finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Penn State only shot 39 percent from the field, while the Terps were an incrementally better 44 percent. Maryland only made three of its 15 three-point tries and 15 of 24 foul shots, limiting Mark Turgeon's offense in a game Penn State nearly stole on the road.
Maryland (19-4, 7-3 Big Ten) and Penn State (14-9, 2-8) traded two-pointers throughout the first half, with both teams working efficiently near the basket and ugly away from it. The Terps made 12 of their 18 field goal attempts from inside the three-point arc, while the Lions made 10 of their 16. From deep, though, the game was a morass of just-rimmed-out misses, with each team making two out of a total 23 three-point tries. Wells scored 12 first-half points, while no other Terps made much of a dent. Trimble, in a continuation of his struggles at Ohio State last week, didn't make a shot from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Maryland spent most of the half a step behind Penn State on the scoreboard, but late baskets from Wells and Layman staked Maryland to a one-point lead entering halftime.
The Terps started the second half on a 10-3 run, keyed by 7 points in the first three minutes of the half from Graham. With 14:18 left in the half and Maryland leading by three points, Wells took a pass from Trimble in transition. Then, this:
It was a stunning jam for Wells, almost certainly the greatest of his Maryland career. It put Maryland up by five points, but Penn State answered with a run to put itself ahead with just inside 10 minutes to play.
The teams played each other tightly, again alternating slim leads almost to the wire. Two Brandon Taylor three-pointers cut into narrow Maryland leads in the final two minutes, ultimately drawing the Nittany Lions within one point when Maryland took possession in the game's final minute. After D.J. Newbill fouled Wells with 39 seconds left, Wells hit two free throws and, on the other end of the floor, grabbed a defensive rebound that represented the Nittany Lions' last best hope. And on a night when Maryland looked so out of sorts for so long, a five-second inbounding violation on Penn State with 7.7 seconds left – and the Terps leading by four points – was the effective hammer.
Maryland's box score:
Three things we learned
1. Melo Trimble wasn't himself, exactly. After playing the worst game of his fine young career last Thursday in Columbus, Trimble was cold again to start against Penn State. His only two first-half points came on free throws after a silly Nittany Lion foul, and he wasn't active as either an assist man or rebounder, netting just one of each. Trimble didn't recover as a scorer, but he did manage to finish with 8 assists, several of which set up easy baskets in the game's final minutes. Still, Maryland needs Trimble to be the scoring dynamo he's been for so much of the season. Right now, he's not where he'll eventually be or where Maryland requires him to be.
2. Jon Graham wasn't himself, either. But in a more positive sense. Graham has never been a major fixture in Maryland's guard-centered motion offense, but he played the best game of his Terrapins career on Wednesday. Against the program he left two years ago, Graham posted a career-high in points and was Maryland's best player for a couple of impactful spurts. His seven early points in the second half gave Maryland the separation it had been searching for over the game's first 20 minutes. This was Graham's night, and Maryland needed every bit of his unusual outburst.
3. Dez Wells was back in form. Maryland's senior leader was just that. In a season where he's struggled to score efficiently, Wells had a robust 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He was selective and accurate on three-pointers and went stride-for-stride with D.J. Newbill, Penn State's fine scoring guard. In the game's final minute, Wells kept Maryland safe with some important free throws and a major defensive rebound. It was an outstanding effort, and Maryland's ceiling shoots upward if he can offer more like this one.