COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) After shuffling players on and off the court all night, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon noticed that he had four freshmen in the game with the outcome hanging in the balance.
“I was like, `Dang, I must really believe in this group,”‘ Turgeon said. “But the guys who finished the game I thought were playing the best.”
Melo Trimble scored 22 points, freshman Anthony Cowan added 12 and No. 25 Maryland used a late salvo to slip past American 62-56 on Friday night.
After losing four starters from a squad that reached the Sweet 16, the Terrapins opened a new season with a decidedly new look. Turgeon has a 16-man roster containing nine freshmen, and he spent much of the game looking for the right combination.
He expects the procedure to continue for quite a while.
“We’re a definite work in progress,” Turgeon said. “But it’s exciting. I just think we’re going to be a heck of a team before it’s all said and done. We’re just trying to figure it out.”
American led 47-43 with 7:34 remaining before Maryland finally played to form. Trimble – the lone returning starter – made two baskets in the lane to spark a 7-0 run.
After Charlie Jones scored for the Eagles, L.G. Gill made two free throws and freshman Kevin Huerter buried a 3-pointer from the left side for a 55-49 lead.
AU closed to 57-54 before Trimble made a driving layup with just over a minute left.
“Day to day, I don’t know who my best players are,” Turgeon said. “I know Melo’s my best player but (beyond that), from day to day I don’t know. The good thing is I have choices. In the end, we figured it out.”
Mark Gasperini scored 14 points for the Eagles, who finished 12-19 last season and are picked to finish in the middle of the Patriot League. On this night, however, AU gave Maryland all it could handle in a duel between Washington area teams.
The Eagles were outrebounded 44-22 and outscored at the free throw line 18-4.
“They’re a terrific team, and for us to be able to hang in there is an accomplishment,” coach Mike Brennan said.
Turgeon started two freshmen, Cowan and Huerter. The lone senior in the starting lineup was 6-foot-11 center Damonte Dodd, who had two fouls in his 2 minutes of playing time in the first half.
Trimble had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting to stake the Terrapins to a 31-25 halftime lead.
Maryland led 16-11 before the Eagles got eight points from Leon Tolksdorf in a 12-2 run.
After Turgeon called a timeout, the Terps rattled off 10 straight points. Cowan started the surge with a 3-pointer, two free throws and a three-point play.
American: Playing this well against a Big Ten contender should serve as confidence boost for the Eagles when they go up against Patriot League foes.
Maryland: The youthful Terrapins got their season off to a rocky start. Turgeon got 10 players involved in the first half, putting a priority on spreading the minutes. Games like this should ultimately help him determine a rotation for the tougher matchups that loom ahead.
Maryland should stay in the Top 25 through the weekend, but at this juncture Turgeon isn’t too concerned.
“Just because people have got us ranked, we don’t know who we are,” he said. “It’s OK to have a tough game. And in the end we’re going to learn a lot more from it. We’re going to be a better team because it was a close game.”
American: Another road trip against strong opposition looms for the Eagles, who face Texas A&M on Monday night.
Maryland: The Terrapins get an early season test Tuesday night against Georgetown at Verizon Center in Washington. Maryland squeezed past Hoyas 75-71 last season.