Fits in their start

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — This was sup­posed to be a fresh start for a Mary­land men’s bas­ket­ball team that fea­tured sev­eral new faces, in­clud­ing two fresh­men who started Fri­day night’s sea­son opener against Amer­i­can.

While the new­com­ers all made con­tri­bu­tions at dif­fer­ent junc­tures, it was a fa­mil­iar face — and his fa­mil­iar game — who led the No. 25 Terps back from a late deficit to a 62-56 vic­tory over the gritty Ea­gles at Xfin­ity Cen­ter.

Ju­nior guard Melo Trim­ble, who strug­gled with a nag­ging ham­string in­jury for the sec­ond half of last sea­son, fin­ished with a game-high 22 points, in­clud­ing a layup Tues­day, 6:30 p.m. Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM with a lit­tle over a minute left af­ter Amer­i­can had climbed to within three.

“Coach [Mark] Tur­geon trusted me in that sit­u­a­tion, and my team­mates did as well,” Trim­ble said. “I knew it was my time to take over and just lead the team to a win. Not just my points, but me lead­ing the team out there.”

Fresh­man An­thony Cowan Jr. scored 12 points and — even more im­pres­sive for a 6-foot, 170-pound guard — col­lected nine re­bounds, shar­ing game-high hon­ors with fel­low fresh­man Justin Jack­son. Fresh­man wing Kevin Huerter hit two big 3-point­ers late in the game while adding six re­bounds and a blocked shot. Cowan and Huerter started in their de­buts.

“We started them be­cause of who we’re play­ing, in­juries, where we are [as a team] … and I thought they were play­ing the best of our guards” at the end, Tur­geon said. “When I looked down my bench, it wasn’t like an as­sis­tant was yelling, ‘Take the young guys out.’ I never heard that.”

Cowan and Huerter be­came the first two Mary­land fresh­men to start in the same sea­son opener since Joe Smith and Keith Booth did so against Ge­orge­town in 1993-94. They, along with Jack­son and grad­u­ate trans­fer L.G. Gill, were on the

floor for the last few min­utes.

Trim­ble, who re­called hav­ing nerves in his col­lege de­but two years ago against Wag­ner, said it was un­der­stand­able for the new ad­di­tions to feel the same. Af­ter re­turn­ing for an­other sea­son, Trim­ble ac­knowl­edged he also had some pregame but­ter­flies.

“I was a bit ner­vous my­self. I was ex­cited to get out there,” said Trim­ble, who hit nine of 19 at­tempts from the field but missed all four of his 3-point tries. “We just had to re­lax and be ag­gres­sive.”

As for the new­com­ers, Trim­ble said he no­ticed that he was play­ing with four of them down the stretch: Gill, who fin­ished with 11 points and six re­bounds, as well as the three fresh­men.

“I knew those guys could do it,” Trim­ble said. “I know it’s the first game of the sea­son, so the next game, they’ll be more poised and more re­laxed.”

Tur­geon said he be­lieved it was the first time he had ever started two fresh­men in a sea­son opener in his 17 sea­sons as a Di­vi­sion I head coach, but con­ceded that the lineup might change for Tues­day’s game against Ge­orge­town at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton.

“It’s a guess­ing game,” Tur­geon said of his ro­ta­tion. “I looked up [at the end of the game], and there were four [new­com­ers] and Melo on the floor. I re­ally must be­lieve in this group.”

That was the case Fri­day, as Tur­geon turned to the fresh­men and Gill when sev­eral up­per­class­men strug­gled.

Se­nior cen­ter Da­monte Dodd, the team’s only le­git­i­mate big man un­til ju­nior Michal Cekovsky re­turns af­ter miss­ing the opener with a foot in­jury, col­lected two early fouls and played 11 min­utes. Dodd fin­ished with three points, no re­bounds and no blocked shots against the smaller Ea­gles.

Ju­nior wing Jared Nick­ens, who ap­peared to be com­ing out of a sea­son-long sopho­more shoot­ing slump when he scored17 points in the pre­sea­son game last week against Di­vi­sion II Catawba, missed all five shots he at­tempted, four of them 3-point­ers. He failed to score in 15 min­utes.

Red­shirt sopho­more guard Dion Wi­ley, who missed last sea­son with a torn menis­cus, looked rusty, miss­ing five of the six shots he tried in 12 min­utes.

The Terps com­mit­ted18 turnovers, with only seven as­sists. Only a dif­fer­ence in re­bound­ing (44 to 22) and free-throw shoot­ing (18-for-25 com­pared to 4-for-5 for Amer­i­can) helped Mary­land avoid an open­ing­night up­set.

Asked what con­trib­uted to the slop­pi­ness, Trim­ble was blunt.

“Ev­ery­body was try­ing to play one-on-one, be­ing a lit­tle self­ish,” said Trim­ble, who com­mit­ted as many turnovers as he had as­sists (four). “I give it the first game, be­cause in prac­tice, we don’t turn the ball over. We run for turnovers. I know we’re go­ing to get bet­ter.”

“We fig­ured out how to win,” Tur­geon said. “We slowed it down, we ex­e­cuted bet­ter. … We re­bounded great. We just have to play a lit­tle bet­ter of­fen­sively to­gether.”

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mary­land’s Melo Trim­ble scores in­side against Amer­i­can dur­ing the first half of the Terps’ sea­son opener in Col­lege Park. Trim­ble, a ju­nior, led Mary­land with 22 points, but the team strug­gled with turnovers in its only game be­fore fac­ing Ge­orge­town on Tues­day.

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Terps’ L.G. Gill, right, de­fends in­side as Amer­i­can’s Mark Gasperini looks to shoot dur­ing the sec­ond half.

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