Maryland-Michigan Preview

BY foxsports • January 11, 2016

Off to the best start in school history, No. 3 Maryland no longer must answer questions about sharing the basketball, creating chemistry and achieving balance on the offensive end of the court.

The next challenge comes Tuesday night, when the Terrapins seek a 10th straight victory in a road matchup with likely short-handed Michigan.

Coming into the season, Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon's biggest task appeared to be maintaining harmony on a team filled with stars. Sophomore guard Melo Trimble was expected to be the go-to guy in crunch time, but it was unclear how returnee Jake Layman and newcomers Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter Jr. fit in.

As it turns out, it hasn't been a problem. This squad is a tight-knit group.

Maryland (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) is the only school in the conference with five players averaging in double figures. Because all five starters have led the team in scoring in at least one game, if the opposition tries to stop one player, others are ready to step in.

''We've got good kids that want to win, and we run a system that kind of makes you pass the ball and be unselfish,'' Turgeon said Monday. ''You take advantage of certain situations.''

In an 88-63 rout of Rutgers last week, Trimble sat out the second half with a hamstring strain. Layman finished with 18 points, Sulaimon and Stone each scored 15 and Carter added 12.

''We're got so many guys that can score,'' Layman said. ''Tonight was my night. Saturday it could be someone else.''

That ''someone else'' was Trimble, who returned to play 35 minutes at Wisconsin and capped a 21-point performance with a tie-breaking jumper from well beyond the arc with 1.2 seconds remaining. Trimble was the obvious hero, but Carter contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds in the 63-60 victory.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Terrapins celebrated as one.

''We just focus on being a team and winning basketball games,'' Carter said Monday. ''Of course everybody in the country knows we can score; we have a bunch of options on the offensive end.''

That includes Stone, a 6-foot-11 freshman who took apart Penn State with a 39-point, 12-rebound effort in a 70-64 win. In that one, Trimble went 3 for 15 from the floor.

It didn't matter.

''We've got weapons all over the court,'' Trimble said. "Everyone can score, so I don't have to do too much but just run the offense and be a point guard.''

Maryland's 15-1 record is its best after 16 games. The previous best start was 14-1, in 1972-73, 1996-96 and 2014-15.

Michigan (12-4, 2-1) has displayed good balance as well, possessing five players averaging at least 8.1 points per game on a team that ranks fourth nationally in 3-pointers made (10.9 per game). Coach John Beilein may have to call upon all those available options as the Wolverines face a second straight ranked opponent likely without leading scorer Caris LeVert.

LeVert, averaging 17.6 points, has missed two games since injuring his lower left leg at Illinois on Dec. 30 and was held out of Sunday's practice.

"We elected not to have him still practice (Sunday) to let the healing try to complete itself," Beilein said. "I'm not optimistic about (Tuesday)."

The Wolverines went 5-9 with LeVert sidelined by a fractured foot last season and struggled without the NBA prospect on Thursday, shooting 37.7 percent in an 87-70 loss at then-No. 20 Purdue that snapped a six-game win streak.

Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman has performed well starting in LeVert's place, however. The sophomore is 15 of 23 from the field over the two games and scored a career-high 25 points against Purdue.

LeVert also missed last season's meeting with Maryland, a 66-56 road loss in which the Wolverines finished 5 of 21 on 3s.

The Terrapins have won three straight in the series since a 78-71 loss in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.

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