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Maryland's experience in close games pays off in survive-and-advance Big Ten Tournament

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The Terps have done it all season, and that experience is paying off in the Big Ten Tournament.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout this season, the Maryland Terrapins have won close games. In fact, when the margin of victory in the game is six points or less, the Terps are 11-0. Is it luck? An ability to grind and close out games? With the regular season over, we'll address that debate another day. But regardless of why Maryland has been so successful in close games, the Terrapins have still been in a lot of close game situations this season. And because of that, they're not worried if the game is close with a minute left to play. They've hit last second, game-winning put back shots; they've closed out games at the free throw line, as they did tonight; and they've even hit three pointers to send games into overtime.

"We're used to having to grind it out so that's kind of like the stigma with the Big Ten," senior guard Dez Wells said following the game. "It's kind of grind‐it‐out kind of games with the teams ‐‐ especially like the teams like Purdue and stuff like that. We're used to grinding it out and having to fight for every possession."

Being comfortable playing in close games can certainly be an important tool when you're playing in a single-elimination tournament. Knowing that your team is comfortable in those close situations when one mistake is the difference between advancing and going home could be that x-factor that helps differentiate your team from others.

"Regardless of what type of adjustments we have to make during the game, we're going to make them, and we feel confident, and we know how to maintain our composure throughout the game," Wells continued.

Freshman guard Melo Trimble echoed what his senior teammate said, saying "Yeah, just to pick up on what Dez said, we're used to it and also we just believe in ourselves and believe in what Coach Turgeon tells us."

When head coach Mark Turgeon was asked about statistical indicators that call Maryland the luckiest team in the country, Turgeon said "I'm the luckiest guy in America. If you know anything about me, I've been lucky my whole life. If Ken Pom and his stats are saying I'm lucky, then he's right, so good for him. But we're good, too."

If the Terps do find themselves in a close game during the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament, they know they probably have an advantage over most teams as they've had so much experience in with these situations; they know what they have to do in order to walk away with a win. They're averaging 69.7 points per game this season while their opponents are scoring 63.1. And they also have three players they can lean on, including a senior in Wells who seems determined to extend his collegiate career for as long as possible.

Wells again helped carry his team to victory Friday evening, putting up 22 points while grabbing six rebounds, dishing out two assists and recording a monster block. Trimble chipped in 17 points and junior Jake Layman scored 10, as the three combined to score 49 of Maryland's 75 points.

"We're all focused, we all bought into what Coach Turgeon wants from us this year, and it's a special thing that we have," Wells said. "So whatever we have to do, we don't care. We just want to get it done for each other and for Coach Turgeon."

A focused team with a determined senior, freshman phenom, and experience closing out good games. It all adds up to a team no one is going to want to face this March.