Maryland, ‘Melo Shoot Out to Exhibition Win

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland opened its exhibition season Nov. 1 with a game against San Francisco State. The Terps won 86-52.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – One exhibition effort in, and we still don’t know a lot about this Terrapin basketball team other than they’ve got a lot of guys that can win stuffed animals at the carnival.

Maryland shot 52 percent from 3-point range and beat the stuffing out of Division II San Francisco State 86-52 before about 3,000 fans at Xfinity Center in a Nov. 1 matinee. Freshman Melo Trimble led the way with 19 points, hitting 4-of-8 behind the arc, and dishing out five assists (versus just two turnovers) in his much-anticipated debut as starting point guard.

“It was fun, it was like being in high school and a team goes zone against us and coach let me shoot the ball whenever I want to,” said Trimble who had 13 first half points to push the Terrapins out in front. “Here it’s different because I have teammates that can shoot the ball, too, but they left me open and I just kept shooting it.”

Coach Mark Turgeon admitted the Terrapins had just installed their zone offense Oct. 30, polishing the man-to-man sets and patterns first. The Terrapins looked ready versus San Francisco State’s pesky 2-3, though. They hit 7-of-16 threes in the first half and five during a key stretch that opened a 23-point lead. They were 14 of 27 for the game.

“Offensively, I thought we were pretty good against the zone, figured it out,” said Turgeon. “We relied on the jump shot a lot but we’ve got a lot of good shooters and guys made a lot of shots.”

Besides Trimble, fellow newcomers Dion Wiley (16 points, 3-of-4 3-point field goals), Richaud Pack (15 points, 3-of-5 3-pointers) and Jared Nickens (13 points, 4-of-8 field goals) were the big beneficiaries of the Gators’ zone.

“We knew they would play zone but we didn’t know they would play that much zone,” said Pack, who also chipped in five rebounds and three steals. “I love zones. I’m a shooter. I knew I would be able to get open shots. It’s not just getting shots but getting open shots.”

Turgeon called Pack “solid,” and liked what he saw from the senior transfer as a back-up point, too. He also remarked on Wiley’s versatile offensive skills but admitted this perhaps wasn’t a great sampling.

“It was a weird game, 40 minutes of zone,” added the coach. “That happened to us a few times last year and we weren’t able to handle it. We were able to handle pretty well today.”

So much so that Maryland actually blew out SF State twice, the first half building that 23-point lead, letting it slip away and then going up by as much as 39 in the second half. Trimble was a hero on paper and beyond, according to his coach.

“He’s just got composure out there, that’s really the best thing he does. And he’s so much better of a defender than I recruited. He really made some nice plays defensively.”

Defense is Real Key

And that’s the hidden part of this one as the Terrapins rained down threes on the visitors from the Left Coast. Maryland held the Gators to 31 percent shooting, and just 24.1 percent (7-of-29) in the second half when they got serious about it again after the first half lapse. SF State had just 21 second-half points.

“That was just rebounding, really,” said Layman of the SF State comeback. “I think they had 14 offensive rebounds (for the game). That just can’t happen.”

Turgeon agreed and implored the Terrapins to pick it up in the second half, which they obviously did. “Just rebounding and turnovers (19), two things we’ve got to work on,” he said. “Very correctable things. I was pleased with the effort today with all the new guys playing well.”

Sophomore Damonte Dodd, making his first start at center, had five blocked shots to go with three rebounds and a hustle stickback on the fast break. His defense was a key often, especially to start the second half.

Turgeon admitted he hadn’t watched film on the Gators, who were 14-12 last year, 12-10, fifth place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, and ranked 10th in the West Region. Of course, SF State has just five players back off that team, and none who averaged more than seven points or five rebounds a game.

Derrick Brown came off the bench to lead the Gators with 11 points and Andrew Jones added 10, but SF State had 19 turnovers and got outrebounded 36-30, in addition to all those 3-pointers they gave up. Maryland had 27 3-point attempts in 44 total shots, an anomaly Turgeon assured all after the game.

He said the Terps looked to get the ball inside more in the second half but weren’t successful. “I’m not worried about that,” he added. “We’re not going to shoot 27 of 44 shots from three, but we are going to shoot threes and we’re going to make a lot of them this year.”

Jake Layman, who along with Dez Wells seemed to defer a little more on offense, thinks this offensive mix can only get better. “When you have reliable guys on the perimeter that can knock down shots, you have confidence that every time they’re going to make a shot or make the right play. I think our young guys really played well.”

Layman had nine points, five rebounds and two blocks but also six turnovers in 19 minutes, including two charging fouls. Wells, who Turgeon said has become the team’s best “facilitator” and led the team in assists since practice started, had eight points, five assists and six rebounds. He rarely forced matters against the zone but was dynamic on the break.

The Terps got a lift from another returnee, too, Jon Graham finishing with four points and six rebounds and giving the team his customary shot of adrenaline off the bench.

“I thought he was the only guy out there getting rebounds for a while,” said Turgeon.

Second Half Surge

With a renewed defensive vigor out of the locker room, Maryland held the Gators without any points the first four minutes of the second half. Trimble hit a free throw over that stretch and Layman got a lay-up out of the full court press. When Wells scored in transition at 16:18, it was 51-31. He had just missed a lob dunk from Trimble that was just a little off target.

That whole sequence was initiated by Dodd swatting a shot, and generally protecting the rim like a mother bear guarding her cubs. “Damonte has improved tremendously since last season,” said Turgeon. “He was a much bigger part of our defense in the second half.”

In another snapshot of future glad tidings, Nickens showed some real fight under the glass among taller foes and came away with a rebound and a foul. On the previous possession, he had drained a baseline three, showing the versatile offense that had excited the coaching staff in the preseason.

Only the 7-1 Michal Cekovsky failed to have a true offensive highlight among the freshmen. His defense is still a work in progress, likely necessitating some more long-term work in the weight room. He did show a good feel kicking the ball out quickly on his rare touches near the low post against that 2-3 zone. His passing skills are as good as advertised and a pleasant change from the low post offensive play of recent vintage.

Cekovsky even found Graham all alone out of a scramble situation for a potential 3-point play but the Terps settled for a lay-in and a 61-39 lead at 12:23. “Our defense, the way we defended so well, we were able to get a lot of stops,” said Wiley, when asked about the key. “I think we got lazy (at the end of the half).”

Maryland led 43-31 at the half but could have been ahead by more, squandering a 23-point advantage. Trimble had an impact with 13 points, hitting three 3-pointers and all four of his free throw attempts. Wells had four assists. Layman chipped in seven points but had four turnovers, at times pressing too much against the zone. Layman also had two blocked shots as Maryland held SF State to 37.9 percent shooting in the opening stanza.

The first half had a YMCA pick-up feel with the two teams combining for 30 3-point attempts. The Terrapins got hot, though, and hit 7-of-16, Over one early stretch, after leading just 8-7, Maryland rattled off a 28-6 run, hitting five threes. When Pack hit a baseline jumper, Maryland led 36-13 with 5:26 before the intermission.

“I think this group meshes well,” said Pack. “We move the ball really well and we’re unselfish.”

Freshmen Start Early Run

San Francisco State’s zone kept Maryland away from the basket, very few touches in the paint. Trimble, making his worldwide college basketball debut, missed his first three over the zone but canned his next one to start loosening things up early. By the time fellow Wiley came off the bench, and hit two in a row, the first at 14:36 to start the big Maryland run, the Terrapins starting to take control.

“Dion Wiley can do a lot of things, I think you saw that,” said Turgeon. “He can shoot the ball, he can drive it. He can pass it. He defended pretty well. He rebounded pretty well.”

Trimble had two threes during the run and Pack added a four-point play, hitting a three as he was fouled.

Layman said fans didn’t get a chance to see what Trimble can really do playing exclusively against a zone. “He really does a great job of setting our offense, getting everyone in the right places,” Layman said.

But the Terrapins seemed to lose interest late and their eight turnovers helped fuel a little offense for the Gators, who had 11 first half points off turnovers. The scrappy SF State team also battled on the boards, sometimes even with a size advantage except when Turgeon played Dodds and freshman Cekovsky together.

The Terrapins are still searching for combinations underneath with senior Evan Smotrcyz out with a broken foot.

Turgeon also said he pressed more than usual to limit SF State’s Princeton offense. “We kind of made adjustments on the fly. That’s why we pressed a little more so we didn’t have to guard that stuff for 30 seconds. I thought our guys did a great job.”

Maryland has one more exhibition, Nov. 1 at noon against Bowie State. The regular season opener is Nov. 14 against Wagner at home.

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