Penn State midfielder Meghan Murray drew out Maryland women’s lacrosse defenders Meghan Ball and Sophie Halus, carrying the ball toward the goal late in the third quarter.

Murray breezed past Ball before Halus pushed her to the ground. The Nittany Lions’ graduate student won a free position opportunity, an area of Penn State’s attack that had hurt the Terps multiple times already.

She rushed toward Maryland goalie Emily Sterling’s cage and flipped a low shot that rippled the net. It marked the Nittany Lions’ sixth goal in the third frame and their fifth from a free-position shot.

The Terps’ second-half collapse could be attributed to Penn State’s dominance on eight-meter shots. The Nittany Lions converted eight of their 11 tries in a 12-11 win over Maryland on Saturday.

Penn State’s effectiveness on free position attempts is the best in the conference. It scored on more than half its opportunities and converted on 72 percent of its eight-meter shots against the Terps, a season-best mark. The Nittany Lions scored their first four goals of the second half from close range, helping erase a four-goal deficit they faced at halftime.

[Maryland women’s lacrosse’s second-half collapse leads to 12-11 loss to Penn State]

“Putting teams on the eight-meter as many times as we did, we need to trim that number,” coach Cathy Reese said.

Ball fouled Penn State midfielder Lauren Saltz to start the string of successive scores. Her shot beat Sterling low in the corner to the right side. Ball then fouled Penn State’s leading scorer Kristin O’Neill, who also rifled a low shot to Sterling’s right-hand side.

The two goals scored in less than a minute began a quarter where the Nittany Lions outscored the Terps by five goals.

Penn State midfielder Kayla Abernathy and attacker Gretchen Gilmore scored on two more free position attempts. O’Neill cashed in on a player-up opportunity. Murray’s goal — another free position score — gave Penn State the lead after three quarters.

Attacker Brooke Hoss scored the game-winning goal in the fourth quarter from another Nittany Lion free position attempt. Hoss started at the center of the eight-meter arc and bounced a shot through Sterling’s legs. The score put Penn State up two goals within less than four minutes, a lead insurmountable for Maryland.

“I think we had plenty of opportunities and we didn’t finish them,” Reese said. “I don’t know if it’s something that Penn State did, I’m giving them full credit. But sometimes it’s finishing the play, finishing the opportunity.”

[Second-half surge sends No. 4 Maryland women’s lacrosse past No. 8 Johns Hopkins, 13-8]

The Terps outshot Penn State in all four quarters on Saturday and finished with 13 more shots than their opposition, including an advantage of six additional shots on goal. But free position opportunities tipped the game in the Nittany Lions’ favor. Maryland finished just three of its six tries.

The Terps’ loss denied them a share of the Big Ten regular season title. It would have been Maryland’s 32nd conference crown and seventh Big Ten conference regular season championship.

The Terps can still earn a share of the title if Northwestern loses its remaining conference game to Michigan, who lost to Maryland 8-6 in March.

Free-position shots could be vital for the Terps as they move into the postseason, with just one regular season game on Wednesday left on their schedule. They had trouble scoring their own chances — Maryland is the country’s fourth-worst team in free position goals — and failed to limit the Nittany Lions’ dominance from eight meters.

“We had a lot of great looks,” attacker Chrissy Thomas said. “Our offense was just efficient in getting those looks, so we got it, we’ll work on it. We have a lot of season left, so I believe in our offense to make those adjustments.”