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Back on track, Terps thriving offensively with several weapons

One thing became abundantly clear toward the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half of Maryland's 76-73 victory here over Penn State at Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday night.

Though defense might still win championships on various levels in different sports, offense still wins college basketball games.

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Defensively, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon will use his team's first road win in nearly a month for teaching moments at practice this week in preparation for Thursday's game against Nebraska at Xfinity Center, the first of three straight at home for the No. 19 Terps.

Offensively, the Terps need to eliminate some turnovers but otherwise keep doing what they have been doing since the second half of last Sunday's road loss at Iowa and through victories over Indiana and the Nittany Lions.

After making just six of 25 shots against the Hawkeyes to fall behind by 23 at halftime, Maryland (21-5 overall, 9-4 Big Ten) has hit a shade less than 50 percent overall from the field (59 of 120) and on 3-point shooting (24 of 50) in the past 2 1/2 games. The Terps also have shot 40 of 50 from the free-throw line in that span.

"We've been hard to watch offensively at times, but the last two games we've been pretty efficient and pretty good," Turgeon said Saturday after the Terps shot 23 of 47 from the field (48.9 percent), 9 of 19 on 3-point attempts (47.4 percent) and 21 of 26 from the free-throw line (80.8 percent). "And we'll continue to get better defensively."

Senior guard Dez Wells and freshman point guard Melo Trimble were both efficient and effective.

Wells took advantage of his matchups on the perimeter to continually drive past Penn State defenders, either finishing at the rim or getting fouled. Wells scored a team-high 22 points on seven of 10 shooting and made all seven of his free-throw attempts. He also hit his only 3-point attempt.

Asked how important it was for Turgeon to have plays for him in the low post, Wells said: "It's been essential, but whether he runs plays for me or not, I can score without having any plays run for me. I can do other things and get my team involved and myself involved in a game. It's not about me just scoring."

Trimble did pretty much the same as Wells, looking like the player who led the nation in both free throws attempted and made for the first two months of the season. Trimble scored 20 points — his third straight game with 18 or more — by hitting all 12 of his free throws and making four of six shots.

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Then there was junior forward Jake Layman, who overcame a slow and sloppy start to make some big plays at both ends down the stretch. Layman scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half, including a pull-up jumper in the lane for a 70-64 lead with 3:29 left right after blocking a drive by Geno Thorpe off the glass.

"It's really a good feeling when you have three guys you can go to," Turgeon said. "Some [coaches] have one, some [coaches] have zero. I got a card with like eight plays that we can call for any one of them. I thought Jake made big shots, Melo was terrific, Dez was Dez."

Said Trimble, who scored Maryland's final six points: "We knew we could get a score out of one of us. It's easy. Well, it's not easy, but I mean it's better to go through one of us."

Wells, who missed a month of the season with a fractured right wrist and then struggled trying to regain the strength in the wrist after he returned in late December, is finally looking like the player who started the season as potentially one of the best in the Big Ten.

That he and Trimble have developed the kind of chemistry that seemed to be lacking last season with former Terps point guard Seth Allen — it appeared to more a high-stakes game of HORSE at times — could carry Maryland deep into March.

Add Layman, who has been projected in several mock NBA drafts as a potential late first-round pick in June, and the Terps have three consistent double-figure scorers. Some of the credit for Maryland regaining its offensive flow it showed early in the season also has to do with the team's role players.

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Both senior guard Richaud Pack and freshman wing Jared Nickens each hit a couple of 3-point shots Saturday, with those by Nickens coming off two straight possessions to give the Terps a 55-42 lead with a little more than 14 minutes left. Senior forward Evan Smotrycz also hit a 3 and made a couple of good defensive plays.

"That's the beauty of our team, we don't have just one person that's really good," Wells said. "We have a couple of guys who can be top players in this conference. We just want to come out and play smart and play team ball and do what's necessary for us to win like we did at the beginning of the season."

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