COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Dez Wells led Maryland on offense, but it was the play of Jon Graham against his former team that gave the Terrapins a big lift against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday night.
Wells, a forward, finished with a game-high 23 points, and Graham pitched in with a career-high 16 points off the bench that helped No. 17 Maryland hold on for a 64-58 victory over Penn State in a Big Ten game on Wednesday night.
Graham, a 6-foot-8 forward, played for Penn State for two years before transferring to Maryland (19-4, 7-3) before the 2013-14 season. He’s been mostly a role player who never scored more than 10 points in a game either for the Nittany Lions or Maryland, but Graham got the first seven points of the second half and scored 12 in the final 20 minutes.
“I was real happy for Jon,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was his night. I thought his energy was great. What a great kid. For him to have a game like this was great.”
Graham made six of seven from the field and added six rebounds in just 20 minutes.
Still, the son of former Maryland great Ernie Graham — who played with the Terrapins from 1978 to 1981 — played down any revenge talk afterward.
“I get amped up for every game,” Graham said. “I’m just happy we won the game. I thought it was a fun night.”
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers just smiled when asked about Graham and said he just had a feeling this would be a big night for the former Nittany Lion.
“I knew going into this game he was going to have a career high,” Chambers said. “I knew it. It just happens all the time. I’m happy for Jon, I really am. I know it means the world to him, and Jon is a good kid.”
Graham’s strong play was important to Maryland, but the Terrapins really needed the work of forward Wells, especially when he scored five points in the final 1:19.
After making a lay-up, Wells added two free throws, grabbed a big rebound and hit one more free throw to put the Terrapins up 62-58 with 23.1 seconds left.
“I’m feeling a lot closer to 100 percent now,” Wells said. “My wrist (broken earlier this season) and body feels amazing. I haven’t felt this good since the beginning of the season.”
Maryland guard Melo Trimble sealed the win when he made two free throws with 6.6 seconds left. Trimble didn’t make a basket for the second straight game but had a career-high eight assists.
Graham’s spurt early in the second half helped Maryland to a 39-31 lead, and the Terrapins appeared in control at that point, but Penn State (14-9, 2-8) wouldn’t go away, thanks mainly to the play of D.J. Newbill. The guard is the Big Ten’s leading scorer and he produced 12 of his 18 points in the second half to help the Nittany Lions remain close.
“We have to figure out how to get it done,” Newbill said. “We know every game is coming down to one or two possessions, but we have to be able to come out on top.”
The first half remained close throughout, but Maryland took a 29-28 lead into the break when Wells made a driving layup with 5.5 seconds left.
Wells finished the half with 12 points and played a big role in keeping the sluggish Terrapins close. He made a 3-pointer and a three-point play 36 seconds apart that gave Maryland a 23-21 lead with 6:40 left in the half.
Penn State bounced back and took a 28-25 led on guard Devin Foster’s left-handed layup with 1:30 left. The Terrapins then scored the half’s final four points, two on forward Jake Layman’s reverse layup at the one-minute mark and the other two on the Wells shot.
Wells made 5 of 6 shots from the field in the first half.
NOTES: This is the first time these two teams have met since Dec. 1, 2010, when Maryland scored a 62-39 victory. … Maryland coach Mark Turgeon put former Penn State forward Jon Graham into this game after just 70 seconds, and he scored on a jump shot
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