Terps look to be developing a permanent backcourt duo
Cowan’s arrival lets Trimble return to his natural position at shooting guard
COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said after Friday night’s season-opening 62-56 win over American that his starting lineup and rotation of reserves could change by the time the Terps take the court at Verizon Center on Tuesday against Georgetown.
Yet, based on who started and finished against the Eagles, it seems likely that most of the changes will come in the frontcourt. It also appears that the backcourt combination he envisioned when he was recruiting Anthony Cowan Jr. is quickly becoming a reality.
Though it seems doubtful that Turgeon will again start four guards against the Hoyas, one of the biggest teams Maryland will face this season, the starting backcourt Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. TV: Fox Sports 1 Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
of junior Melo Trimble and Cowan will likely be unchanged. It might be even be permanent.
With a team that will rely mostly on its guards and wing players for scoring, the pairing of Trimble and Cowan appears dynamic. Cowan’s presence lets Trimble move back to his natural position at shooting guard.
That happened more often than not Friday as the Terps made their now-trademark early-season, lategame comeback against a smaller, less athletic team. While Cowan and fellow freshman starter Kevin Huerter have to do a better job of taking care of the ball, both showed they could make plays down the stretch.
Putting Cowan at the point seemed to help Trimble stay aggressive and attack the basket.
“I’m just playing basketball,” Trimble said when asked how pairing with Cowan affects his game. Playing point guard “puts a lot of pressure on me, bringing the ball up, trying to be aggressive as well. I look at him as a smaller version of me. He can do the same things I can do. It’s going to help me a lot.”
Trimble finished with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting in a team-high 34 minutes, and played with the kind of verve he often showed as a freshman. Cowan scored 12, including eight straight to help the Terps finish the first half on a 12-2 run and take a six-point lead. He also had a teamhigh nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
Both had four turnovers, combining for nearly half of Maryland’s 18. Trimble also had four of the team’s seven assists, while Cowan had none. It was similar to Trimble’s college debut two years ago against Wagner, when he scored 13 points and had no assists.
Turgeon said it was Cowan’s defense that was the spark.
“I think Anthony got it going defensively. He got a couple of steals, deflections — I thought that was big on his part,” Turgeon said of Cowan’s play toward the end of the first half, when one of those deflections turned into a fast-break layup and a threepoint play.
“I think Coach wants our whole team’s identity to be defense,” Cowan said earlier in the week. “That’s one thing I make sure to come in with every day is to have the most intensity on the defensive end.”
After American closed to within three points with 1:37 remaining, the ball was in the hands of either Trimble, who scored on a layup to push the Terps up by five, or Cowan, Anthony Cowan Jr., shooting over American’s Charlie Jones (Mount Saint Joseph), had12 points and a team-high nine rebounds in Friday night’s 62-56 win. who was fouled after the last of fellow freshman Justin Jackson’s nine rebounds and made a pair of free throws. Trimble added a free throw with four seconds left.
Mostly used at point guard at St. John’s College High in Washington, Cowan was often pushed to shooting guard down the stretch to free him up as a scorer, similar to the way Turgeon is using Trimble this season. Cowan said Thursday that he is comfortable playing either role.
“We work on it in practice. In the game it comes natural,” Cowan said about playing off the ball. “It wasn’t a big adjustment. Me and [Trimble], we can play both sides.”
Not surprisingly, Trimble and Cowan come from similar high school programs.
Trimble was considered the best player in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference as a senior at Bishop O’Connell in Northern Virginia three years ago. Cowan was the Most Valuable Player in leading St. John’s past DeMatha — and five-star prospect Markelle Fultz, now at Washington — in the WCAC championship game last winter.
“It definitely helped me a lot,” Cowan said. “In the WCAC, day in and day out, you have to come in and play against another player that’s also going high D-1 [Division I]. There’s not a night off you can take. That’s why it transfers to college basketball. Any team you play, they always come out and they’re going to take their best shot.”
That will certainly happen Tuesday, when the Hoyas aim to avenge last year’s 75-71 loss at Xfinity Center to then-No. 3 Maryland. While Trimble has never played at Verizon Center, it’s very familiar to Cowan.
Having once served as a ball boy for the Hoyas, Cowan is looking forward to his return as an opponent.