Maryland senior forward Jon Graham had arguably the best game of his career Wednesday night, scoring 16 points off the bench to help the No. 17 Terps hold off Penn State, 64-58, in College Park.
“It was a great win,” Graham said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Great team win. Penn State is a really good team, and I’m really proud of the way my team payed tonight.”
Maryland led 29-28 at halftime and knew it would be in for a dogfight in the second half.
“They always play tough,” Graham said of the Nittany Lions. “I expected a good game. I expected a tough game. But we responded. We did a great job on the defensive end especially. Down the stretch, we executed the way we knew we were capable of.”
The Terps shot 44.2 percent from the floor and just 20 percent from three-point range, but they held Penn State in check on the defensive end. The Nittany Lions shot just 38.6 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from three. Their top two scorers, D.J. Newbill and Geno Thorpe, combined for 28 points on 26 shots from the floor.
“That’s how you win games,” Graham said. “With team defense.”
Dez Wells led the way for Maryland with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds and one block.
“I thought Dez was great tonight,” Graham said. “I’ve watched Dez for over a year. He’s a big-game player, and he came up big for us tonight again.”
Jake Layman added 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds to go with one assist, one block and one steal.
With the win, Maryland improved to 19-4 overall and 7-3 in the Big Ten. The Terps are tied with Purdue (15-8, 7-3) for second place in the conference and are 1.5 games back of No. 5 Wisconsin (20-2, 8-1) for the Big Ten lead.
“The Big Ten is loaded with a lot of great teams,” Graham said. “You see it tonight across the conference. There’s a lot of good games, a lot of good teams playing well. We just want to continue to do what we’re doing and get ready for the next game.”
Maryland has several tough games upcoming: Indiana, Penn State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Rutgers and Nebraska again. But the Terps are only worried about one game and one game only: this Sunday at Iowa (13-8, 4-4).
“Iowa’s a really good team,” Graham said. “They’re really good at home. We’re in for a big challenge, but we’re going to be ready. We’re going to get to work in practice, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Tip-off is at 3:15 p.m. ET.
Maryland has won five of its last seven games and is eager to make a final push for the NCAA Tournament. Graham, a Baltimore native, is enjoying every minute of it.
“It’s an honor (to play here),” he said. “Maryland’s always been a dream school of mine.”