By Jeff Seidel
The biggest news that came out of Saturday wasn’t that Maryland scored a 95-61 victory versus an overmatched Catawba team in an exhibition game at the Xfinity Center. Instead, it was that Melo Trimble suffered a sprained ankle, played only nine minutes and never returned after falling near the team’s bench in the first half.
But the good news is that Maryland fans can breathe a bit easier because coach Mark Turgeon said Trimble should be all right. The coach called the injury basically a Grade 1 sprain and doesn’t expect the junior guard to miss much time.
“Melo’s going to be fine,” Turgeon said. “If this was a big game, Melo would have played. We’ve got to get him ready for Friday. He’ll be fine.”
Before Trimble got hurt, he teamed up with freshman guard Anthony Cowan and caused plenty of trouble. Cowan finished with 15 points and five assists in 24 minutes and only one turnover. The freshman did a solid job of running the Maryland offense, both with Trimble in the game and after the junior left, constantly creating scoring chances for himself and teammates.
When Trimble played, the two alternated at the point and shooting guard spots, and both sliced through the Catawba defense with ease. Trimble didn’t actually take a shot in his nine minutes but finished with two assists.
That combination could be a tough one for opposing teams to deal with as the Terrapins would basically have two point guards on the floor who can both shoot and set up others to do the same.
“They’re going to play; they’ll play together a lot, and they’re going to feed off each other,” Turgeon said. “They’re both learning both spots, and we’ll [get] a nice little back-court.”
The two started along with L.G. Gill, Jared Nickens and Damonte Dodd. Nickens led the Terps with 17 points while Gill added 13. Turgeon felt that Dodd anchored the defense, especially down low, where the forward/center finished with eight points and 10 rebounds and often kept the Indians away from the basket,
Catawba stayed within shouting distance for much of the first half until Maryland scored 14 in a row late and then started the second stanza with nine straight points. That broke the game open and gave Maryland a 59-24 lead.
But in the end, ball movement is was what most noticed in the game. The Terrapins posted 23 assists on 33 baskets and shot 57 percent from the field – usually because Cowan, Trimble and others made timely passes that set up high-percentage shots.
“We executed at a pretty high level, 23 assists,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got a lot of players that know how to play. We’ve got a lot of guys that can pass the ball; we’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot the ball. We’re hard to guard.”
Jaylen Brantley also played at the point and added five points, six rebounds plus two assists. Dion Wiley, who missed last year, added 12 points and provided more punch to a powerful offense.
Kevin Huerter, a 6-foot-7 freshman guard, often played on the wing and finished with eight points and six assists on his own, making a number of good passes, something many of the Terrapins did time and again.
“We’ve got confidence…that we really share the ball well,” Nickens said. “It’s something that we’re just going to continue to get better on, and it’ll just get better throughout the season.”
Freshman Justin Jackson, a 6-7 forward, turned in a strong overall effort with 15 points plus six rebounds and three blocks in his 23 minutes.
Maryland now will prepare for its season opener Friday at home versus American. The Terrapins are hoping Trimble will return, and Turgeon did not seem too worried about that. But if something happened, and Trimble couldn’t make it, Cowan could step in and run the offense, especially if the freshman played the way he did in this game.
“At the end of the day, we’re just going to focus on us and just getting better,” Jackson said. “Melo’s a big part of our team. But regardless, Anthony is a point guard. He’s a good leader.”