Coach Mark Turgeon didn't have much to worry about during Maryland's unexpected run into Big Ten title contention.
He's had to play a bit of damage control over the last three-plus weeks, though, while trying to keep his team level-headed through an up-and-down stretch.
Turgeon's 19th-ranked Terrapins head into Saturday night's road matchup with a Penn State team that gave them a scare 10 days ago.
Maryland (20-5, 8-4) won 17 of its first 19 games after beating Michigan State by 16 points Jan. 17, but has alternated losses and wins in its last six with the results varying greatly.
The Terps were routed by Indiana, Ohio State and Iowa by a combined 59 points and defeated Northwestern, Penn State and the Hoosiers by a total of 10. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells scored 18 points apiece in Wednesday's 68-66 home victory over Indiana.
"Our kids are getting better," Turgeon said. "Sunday (a 71-55 road loss to the Hawkeyes) felt like the world was going to end, but the kids are resilient. They stepped up and got another close win for us."
Trimble's last two efforts have been encouraging. The freshman, who went 0 for 13 from the field and scored seven points in his previous two combined before netting 20 against Iowa, has been dealing with back soreness.
"Melo has been playing injured for about three games," Turgeon said. "We are getting healthy now."
Despite their recent struggles, the Terps are tied with No. 23 Ohio State and Purdue for second place in the Big Ten, three games behind No. 5 Wisconsin. They also have the resume to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009-10, two seasons before Turgeon arrived.
"We talked about having a sense of urgency," Turgeon said. "We are just trying to make it a good year rather than a mediocre year, and our guys are doing that.
"I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is a tough week. We have a lot of games this week, including Penn State, which is a good team, on Saturday night."
The Nittany Lions (15-10, 3-9) have lost three of four, but they hung with Maryland throughout in a 64-58 loss Feb. 4. Trimble went 0 for 5 from the field and finished with four points, but Wells' 23 and a career-high 16 from Jon Graham, who transfered from Penn State prior to last season, were too much to overcome.
D.J. Newbill had 18 points in that contest but shot 6 of 19. The Big Ten's leading scorer at 20.7 points per game has averaged 15.4 and 36.2 percent from the floor in his last five.
The senior went 5 of 13 and scored 16 in Wednesday's 75-55 loss to the Buckeyes. Penn State had allowed an average of 55.2 points over its previous five.
"We're all about defending and rebounding, and we didn't do that for whatever reason," coach Pat Chambers said. "We have to pick ourselves back up. We have a heck of a challenge on Saturday and we'll work on the things we didn't do well."
Maryland has lost three straight on the road and is 2-4 away from home in conference play.