With multiple teams taking unexpected losses in non-conference play, many still have questions as to who the second-best team in the Big Ten may be. No. 12 Ohio State, whose only losses have come against No. 4 Louisville and No. 24 North Carolina, has an argument but so does No. 17 Maryland. Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins are off to an 11-1 start, with their most recent result being a 73-64 win at Oklahoma State on Sunday.
The game in Stillwater was Maryland’s first true road game, but they also have a neutral-court win over No. 13 Iowa State on their resume. Also of note is the fact that Maryland’s won six of the seven games they’ve played without leading scorer Dez Wells, who remains sidelined with a fractured right wrist.
Others have stepped forward in Wells’ absence, including a freshman point guard in Melo Trimble who ranks among the best newcomers in college basketball.
Sunday afternoon it was forward Jake Layman who led the way offensively, scoring a game-high 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting while also grabbing 11 rebounds. On the season Layman’s averaging 15.8 points per game, and his numbers across the board have been an improvement over what he produced as a sophomore. Layman’s become both more consistent and more efficient, as evidenced by his field goal percentage jumping from 40.1% in 2013-14 to 53.1% through 12 games in 2014-15.
Joining Layman in double figures were freshmen Melo Trimble (15 points, four assists) and Jared Nickens (11), and North Carolina A&T transfer grabbed ten rebounds. Trimble finished Sunday’s game with as many turnovers (four) as assists, but overall he’s been the addition many expected him to be upon his commitment to Maryland.
Trimble, currently averaging 15.8 points and 3.1 assists per game, gives Maryland a player at the point who opposing teams have to account for as both a scorer and a distributor and the Terps didn’t have that last year. Trimble will only get better with experience, and along with Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell he’s been the best freshman in the Big Ten.
As a team Maryland hit ten three-pointers against the Cowboys, and they did a better job of converting turnovers into points than Oklahoma State did. Maryland scored 21 points off of 11 Oklahoma State turnovers, and the plus-8 in that particular category played an important role in the outcome. As Big Ten play approaches Maryland will only get better, with Evan Smotrycz (eight points) getting more comfortable after missing time for health reasons, Wells returning to the rotation, and the freshmen improving with more game action under their belts.
At this point, any conversations about the Big Ten race have to include Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. They’ve earned that through the first 12 games of the season.