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Penn State at Maryland Preview: There Will Be Handshakes

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Probably.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Maryland Terrapins (18-4, 6-3)
When: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Xfinity Center
TV: BTN, BTN2Go
KenPom Rank: 32
Vegas Line: Terps -8.5
Enemy Blog: Testudo Times

Penn State has yet to break through on the road during this B1G campaign, but they've gotten close lately. Saturday's two-point heartbreaker in Champaign was just the latest in a series of tight losses away from home, and they'll get another crack at that nut when they take on Maryland in College Park. Mark Turgeon's team is coming off their heaviest defeat of the season, a 24-point thrashing at Ohio State, and the Terps may not be more vulnerable than they are right now.

But Maryland has the talent and depth to dig themselves out of that hole quickly, and Penn State may yet be without their second-leading scorer, Brandon Taylor. The lower leg injury he suffered at Rutgers kept him dressed but ultimately sidelined for the past week and a half, and Pat Chambers sure could use all the weapons at his arsenal in what is sure to be a raucous, hostile environment at the Xfinity Center. (These schools are rivals, right?)

Scouting The Opposition

Freshman Melo Trimble has been the catalyst for the Terps' rise into the top 25, so the fact that Maryland's recent struggles have coincided with a dip in his form is no coincidence. A true combo guard, Trimble is at his best when he's attacking the rim and getting to the line. He's taken 153 freebies this season (nearly 7.0 FTA per game), and it'll be a huge ask of Shep Garner to man up against his freshman counterpart. Don't be surprised to see Penn State play a wider 2-3 or even a 3-2 zone for long stretches to keep Trimble out of the lane while still accounting for the plethora of outside shooters at Maryland's disposal.

Penn State's bigs have been putting in some downright solid performances of late, and the shot-blocking abilities of Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack will come in handy tonight. Maryland is shooting just under 40% from two-point range in B1G play, good for dead last in the conference. The Terps don't rely much on post play for their scoring, as 40% of the shots they attempt come from deep, but eliminating easy buckets off the drive will make defending the three-ball a much less daunting task for the Lions.

What To Watch For

The Terps had held each of their B1G foes to 1.00 point per possession or less in their first six games (5-1), but as of late their defense has taken a shelling. Indiana hit them for 90 at Assembly Hall, D'Angelo Russell and Ohio State blew them out at Value City Arena, and sandwiched in between those games Northwestern gave them all they could handle, reaching the 1.03 PPP mark in the process before Dez Wells' tip in saved the day. Those three opponents combined to shoot 62% from distance. Spoiler alert: Penn State ain't shooting 62% from three tonight. But if they can hit around 40%, as Northwestern did, this could be a tight game. Having Taylor back and fit would help, but some of that burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Garner, Payton Banks, and, oh yeah, D.J. Newbill.

Prediction

The 8.5-point spread put forth by Vegas seems a little bit low on the face, but these teams are trending in somewhat opposite directions, after all. The Nittany Lions are the team that's won two of their last three (albeit against lesser competition that what Maryland has faced), and as noted physicist Ray Lewis puts it, momentum is huge. This game is poised to go one of two ways: the Nittany Lions can't get anything to fall and Maryland runs up the score (because rivalry), or it's a tight-knit affair with a late deadlock that is poetically broken by one Jon Graham. I think it'll be closer to the latter: Maryland 73, Penn State 68.