Questions about whether the Terps would take another leap were answered in their sold out season opener Friday night at the Xfinity Center, where they took on the Mountaineers of Mt. St. Mary’s. Maryland got off to a surprisingly slow start, but ultimately pulled away with a 10-0 run at the beginning of the second half and went on to defeat the Mount 80-56.
It’s been quite awhile since there’s been this much hype surrounding Maryland basketball. As a matter of fact, it’s been close to 15 years since Juan Dixon and Steve Blake were running the Cole Field House on their way to the Terps first National Championship in 2002.
Similar to the 2001-02 team, key contributions are going to come from upper classmen, but the circumstances behind this team coming together are quite different. Senior Jake Layman looks to lead the charge for this Terps team as the longest tenured player, but Duke Graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter, Jr., who sat last year because of NCAA rules, will also be key to building upon the success of last year’s unexpected run.
The biggest surprise in Friday night’s tilt was seen in the box score where the Terps were able to get multiple players involved on offense, with 4 out of the 5 starters scoring double figures for the game. Head Coach Mark Turgeon was very pleased with the balance with which his team played.
“We’re hard to guard because we have so many guys that can do things. It’s nice to see...it means you’re a pretty good team if you can do that. If we can average five guys in double figures then we’ve got something going.”
Among those in double figures was Melo Trimble, a sophomore DMV area native and Big Ten Freshman standout last season, who looks to pick up where he left off last season, where he led the Terps in points, assists, steals, and minutes played.
Trimble was extremely effective in Friday night’s opener scoring 14 points, while shooting 54% from the field in less minutes than he’s become used to. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to last year’s opener to find a time where Trimble logged less than 25 minutes in a game. Trimble considers less minutes in this capacity as a positive, and attributes his sitting for 15 minutes as a signifier of the the growth of this team.
“I think the second team once they got in...there was no let down. They got us rolling throughout the first half and last year we couldn’t really rely on that and some of the guys had to play a lot. It’s fun to watch. I’m happy for my teammates...I think that since we have so much depth on the team we can still do good even if I’m not in the game for the whole 40 minutes.”
Another key cog in the Maryland machine was the off season signing of Five-Star recruit Diamond Stone, who gives the Terps more size, and additional depth to a team that should out rebound teams in the Big Ten on a consistent basis. Stone’s arrival to College Park signifies the first time in the program’s history where they were able to nab top 25 prospects in successive seasons, with Melo Trimble being the first in 2014.
The Terps have a long road ahead towards what they hope is a Big Ten Championship followed by a trip to the Final Four. It would seem that the Terps have the pieces: senior leadership, size, and depth at multiple positions. Only time will tell if these are in fact winning ingredients for a team that seems to be on everyone’s radar.
Photos courtesy of umterps.com.