No. 3 Maryland flourishes with deep roster, unselfish play
COLLEGE PARK, MD. >> 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.
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."
It's up to Trimble and Suliamon to make sure the right person gets the ball. More often than not, that's precisely what happens.
"Melo and Rasheed take what comes to them and try to make guys around them better," Turgeon said.
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.
The next challenge comes Tuesday night, when the Terrapins seek their 10th straight victory in a road matchup with Michigan. Turgeon is counting on another team effort, but is taking nothing for granted.
"It's a fight every day to get guys to play together offensively and defensively, as any coach will tell you," he said. "It's a constant battle to keep doing it, but so far we've been great with it."