NC Central-Maryland Preview
Even before losing team leader Dez Wells to injury, Maryland had been playing above expectations.
The 19th-ranked Terrapins look to build on their most recent win Wednesday night when they host North Carolina Central.
Heading into its first season in the Big Ten, few gave Maryland any chance of joining the nation's elite following a 17-15 record in 2013-14. But a 7-0 start - highlighted by a win over then-No. 13 Iowa State in the CBE Classic - propelled the Terps into the Top 25, and they have gone 3-1 since Wells, who averages 16.2 points, suffered a wrist injury in the Nov. 25 win over the Cyclones.
With Wells sidelined at least another two weeks, freshman guard Melo Trimble and junior forward Jake Layman have picked up the scoring load, averaging 18.7 and 17.0 points in Wells' absence.
Layman scored a season-high 21 while Trimble added 16 and a season-best seven assists as Maryland (8-1) bounced back from a loss to then-No. 7 Virginia with an 82-62 victory over Winthrop on Saturday.
''In the UVA game, we played some of our worst defense all year,'' Layman said after Maryland limited Winthrop to 36.2 percent shooting. ''Today, it was a big focus of ours and we did a good job.''
The 6-foot-3 Trimble has been hard to contain, as he's among the nation's leaders in free throws made (62) and attempted (70), getting at least six attempts in six games. He typifies the Terps' aggressive offensive attack - they lead the Big Ten with 179 made foul shots and have converted 74.0 percent after sinking 29 of 35 on Saturday.
While Wells' absence has been the focal point of who coach Mark Turgeon doesn't have available, forward Damonte Dodd is trying to be a consistent contributor with Evan Smotrycz sidelined by a foot injury. The 6-11 Dodd had career highs of nine points and 10 rebounds Saturday after being saddled with early foul trouble and is averaging 4.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.
"Where we are right now, to do what we did, I was really proud of our guys," Turgeon said. "We got a lot better today."
North Carolina Central (6-3) carries a five-game winning streak into College Park after a 61-39 victory over Howard on Sunday as part of the Big Apple Classic at the Barclays Center in New York. The Eagles are one of the best defensive teams in Division I, limiting opponents to 53.4 points per game and 29.2 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Anthony McDonald had 21 points - all on 3-pointers - while Jordan Parks added 13 and 13 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. Parks, part of a senior-laden Eagles squad that went 28-6 and reached the NCAA tournament last season, has averaged 17.3 points on 79.3 percent shooting (23 for 29) and 10.0 rebounds in the last three games.
McDonald is shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc and has hit five or more 3-pointers four times.
NC Central is 0-8 against ranked opponents since joining Division I in 2007 and opened 2014-15 with a 76-60 defeat at then-No. 6 North Carolina on Nov. 14.
Maryland won the only previous meeting between the teams, 70-56 on Dec. 31 as Wells had 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Parks had 10 off the bench for the Eagles, who shot 32.7 percent and were outrebounded 43-28.