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Maryland-Valparaiso final score: 3 things we learned from the Terps' 65-62 win

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Maryland waited until the last moment to slam the door shut against Valpo and advance in the NCAA Tournament.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland men's basketball team lives – narrowly – to fight another day.

The No. 4-seeded Terrapins beat No. 13 Valparaiso, 65-62, in Columbus on Friday, advancing to the NCAA Tournament's round of 32 for the first time since their last appearance in 2010. The Terps stumbled after an impressive start but recovered in time to handle the Crusaders and move on. Maryland's win sets up a meeting with West Virginia at Nationwide Arena on Sunday and moves the Terps to 12-1 in games decided by fewer than seven points.

Reserve guard Varun Ram denied Keith Carter's tying three-point attempt with a strip at the final buzzer to seal Maryland's win.

Melo Trimble had a double-double for Maryland, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Dez Wells and Jared Nickens scored the same 14 points to pace Maryland's offense.

The Terps were dominated on the offensive glass, continuing a trend that has troubled them for much of the season. The Terps shot 48 percent from the field, while the Crusaders shot just 36 percent. But Valparaiso had 11 offensive rebonds to Maryland's four, and they used their extra shot attempts to keep the game close just with volume.

Maryland started smoothly for a second game in a row, mounting an 11-2 run after tipoff behind four early points from Damonte Dodd and 5 from Wells. But the Crusaders pushed back with an 8-0 run, then another 8-0 run after a brief interruption by Maryland. The Terps' nine-point lead from the opening minutes had turned into a 21-16 deficit with about nine minutes left in the half. Wells picked up a second personal foul at that same point, putting Maryland's senior leader on the bench with his team trailing. The Terps benefitted from a five-point spurt from Trimble and, over the course of the half, a platter of four three-pointers from Nickens. The Crusaders shot brutally from near the basket, but they were a robust 7-of-15 from behind the arc in the opening half. Just before the buzzer, star Alec Peters hit a three-pointer that placed the halftime score at 31-27 in the Terps' favor.

The second half started with foul trouble. After Jake Layman took a third personal and went to the bench, Dodd issued a textbook block on a David Skara dunk attempt, cleanly turning the ball away as Skara tried to finish a slam. But Dodd earned a shooting foul, then a technical foul (either for looking down at Skara or saying something to a referee), and his foul total – which should've been at two – immediately jumped to four. So Maryland's best rim-protector went to the bench, and the Terps were set to play the remainder of the game with both members of their starting front-court in foul trouble. In this tournament, that's not a good deal.

Valparaiso pulled even with just more than 10 minutes to play, but Maryland inched forward from there, with three-pointers from Trimble and Wiley restoring the Terps to their four-point lead from halftime ahead of a sprint to the finish. Evan Smotrycz had a miserable shooting evening, but his shot clock-beating reverse lay-in left Maryland's lead at six points with only the final eight minutes to go. Peters and E. Victor Nickerson, though, made consecutive triples of their own, knotting the game at 49 with six and a half minutes on the clock.

It was fitting that Maryland's tournament return would stay tight all the way to the finish. After the teams traded small runs, the Terps led by a single point when the final three minutes began. Wells scored a critical and-one lay-in after an offensive rebound to give Maryland a 65-61 edge. Layman fouled out with just over a minute left and Maryland leading by that same margin, on a charge call. Dodd earned his fourth foul seconds later, and Maryland's lead became three with exactly 60 seconds remaining.

With 13.7 seconds left, Valparaiso had a three-point deficit with the ball and the shot clock turned off. Valpo's Bryce Drew tried to draw up a tying shot for Peters, but Wells and Smotrycz sealed him off. The ball went to Carter in the corner, where he would meet Ram – the 5'9 former Maryland walk-on who hadn't played through the first 39 minutes 46 seconds. Ram stripped Carter's shot attempt, and Smotrycz corralled the loose ball. Maryland, at last, had shut the door.

Three things we learned

1. Fouls created all kinds of Maryland problems. Wells only played 12 minutes in the first half because of his two fouls. Dodd picked up his third and fourth fouls quickly in the second half and had to mostly sit from there, while Layman's participation was fluid down the stretch because of fouls, too. That's three-fifths of Maryland's starting lineup, including its starting power forward and center. That hurt Maryland's floor spacing and effectively eliminated whatever chance the Terps had at putting real separation between themselves and the Crusaders.

2. The kids are all right. Nickens played the biggest game of his collegiate life. Trimble kept Maryland afloat while Wells sat with foul trouble and managed a double-double. Wiley's three-pointer midway through the second half was important, as was his sound defense while Maryland needed him because of foul trouble. Nickens and Wiley figure to be important members of the program for the next three seasons. Trimble will have to make a decision about his professional future at some point, but between the three of them, especially, the Terps' future is in capable hands.

3. Maryland followed a familiar script. The Terps got beaten on the offensive glass, lost an early lead and struggled to deal with a lesser-regarded opponent. But they prevailed late, just as they have almost every time out this season. As a result, they're alive to fight another day.