Maryland off to fast start in inaugural Big Ten season
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) All talk about the past three years of Maryland basketball has been swept off the court and out of the locker room.
In their fourth season under coach Mark Turgeon, the Terrapins are off to their best start in 16 years. Maryland (13-1) is ranked 12th – its highest perch since November 2004 – and is coming off a rousing 68-66 double-overtime win at Michigan State.
Previously under Turgeon, the Terrapins went 17-15, 25-13 and 17-15. They missed the NCAA tournament all three years and only once were invited to the NIT.
”It’s been tough, but the start that we have so far is indicative of the future of Maryland basketball,” senior Dez Wells said Friday.
What makes this season so surprising is that it comes after an offseason in which five players transferred, including starters Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell and Nick Faust.
At media day, Turgeon said it was time to close that chapter of Maryland basketball and instead look ahead to a new era.
His players got the message.
”We’ve all moved on,” forward Jake Layman said. ”It’s about who’s on this team, who’s here now.”
Said Wells: ”We don’t talk about what happened the previous season. We’re just trying to focus on what we do good this year and how we can continue to build on that.”
The Terps are soaring, even though Wells – the team’s leading scorer last year – missed seven games with a broken wrist. Also, senior forward Evan Smotrycz sat out eight games with foot and ankle injuries.
That Maryland could win without two of its starters is a tribute to the team’s depth and the play of freshman guard Melo Trimble, who leads the team in scoring and assists.
”There’s a lot on his plate, and he figures out a way to win,” Turgeon said.
Team defense has been a factor, too. The Terrapins shot 33 percent from the floor (4 for 22 from beyond the arc) at Michigan State and still came away with a victory in their inaugural Big Ten contest.
”I told the guys after the game that they should feel good how they won the game,” Turgeon said. ”We shot 30 percent, were 1 for 18 from 3 at one point and had 21 turnovers. But we did defend and rebound better than we have all year. That was the difference in the end.”
Turgeon likes how the Terrapins have played thus far, but he understands that invitations to the NCAA tournament are not handed out in January.
”It’s a good start,” he said. ”We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be. Because of the injuries and different things, we just haven’t progressed to be able to add as many things as I’d like to add.”
There’s no use asking him to compare this squad to any he’s had previously at Maryland, but it’s clear this group is more coachable.
”We just concentrate on this team,” he said. ”We have young guys who have bought in and are listening to the coach. Our pieces fit right now.”
The Terps play their first Big Ten home game Saturday against Minnesota, looking to improve to 14-1 for the first time since 1996-97.
”It’s a great start,” Trimble said. ”But it’s not that big of a deal because we’re just now starting conference play.”
Perhaps, but Maryland is already just four wins shy of matching last season’s total.
”I think we’re going to get a lot better,” Turgeon said, ”and that’s encouraging to me.”