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Maryland’s Supporting Cast Will Set Team’s Ceiling

The Maryland Terrapins have one of the Big Ten’s best players in Melo Trimble. But he needs help if the Terps are going to win.

NCAA Basketball: American U. at Maryland Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What a telling week it was for the Maryland Terrapins.

On Monday November 28th, the Terps were 7-0 and looking ahead to their biggest test thus far of the young season against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Maryland was undefeated and lead by one of the best players in America in Melo Trimble. Even with that being said, though, they were still one of the biggest unknowns in the Big Ten.

We soon would find out why.

Maryland was thoroughly dominated by Pittsburgh, who was able to neutralize Trimble and made Maryland’s offense completely anemic. Trimble scored only 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting and was still the leading scorer for the Terps, who shot only 34% from the field in the loss. It is fair to criticize Trimble who, as the best player on the team, carries a lot of responsibility when it comes to flow of the offense (especially since he is also the lead guard).

But the supporting cast around Trimble must improve if this team is going to contend in the Big Ten.

Against Pittsburgh, only one Maryland player shot better than 40% and scored more than 7 points. When your star struggles, that is not how you pick up the slack.

Than one man was 7-1 Slovakian big man, Michal Cekovsky. Cekovsky plays only 16 minutes per game off of the bench, but has scored at a wildly consistent rate. He is averaging 8.2 points per game and shots a terrific 67% from the floor. With more minutes, his size and soft touch around the basket can make him a major threat. While Cekovsky is a great piece, it is two freshman that must play more consistently, efficiently, and aggressively for the Terps to succeed.

Guard Anthony Cowan (10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game) and forward Justin Jackson (10.9 points, 6.4 rebounds per game) are the second and third leading scorers on the team, but will dictate how high the ceiling is for coach Mark Turgeon’s group. Both players have shown great promise but as we all know with freshmen is college sports, consistency is the key.

There have been games where both guys have complimented Trimble well. In the Georgetown game, Cowan posted 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals and was a terrific compliment to Trimble, who was able to focus on scoring and dropped 22 points on only 13 shot attempts. Jackson was also terrific, tallying 17 points and 7 boards in one of the best games of his very young career.

Yes, this was only a one point win over a less-than-spectacular Georgetown team, but the way they played showed that this team could be very good with more time together.

Cowan’s ability to run the point and let Trimble play off the ball really opened things up offensively. It gave the team more options, as it was able to run more plays and open up quality shots, as opposed to playing isolation basketball. Cowan is undersized at only 6-0, 170 pounds, but has a quick first step and could be a good ball-handling compliment to Trimble moving forward.

Jackson is the frontcourt piece of the future for the Terps. He rebounds at a great rate, leading the team with 6.4 boards per game, and can also stretch the floor, shooting 48% from downtown thus far. Jackson is the guy that should be able to step up, game in and game out for Maryland and provide the scoring punch from the frontcourt that the Terrapins have not had to worry about in past years. With more experience and polish, Jackson could certainly play the Jake Layman role for Maryland.

The freshmen have flashed, but both are shooting at too low of percentages from the floor to be reliable options on a regular basis. Both guys are shooting at about 43% from the floor, but those figures can certainly rise if Coach Turgeon can settle the young duo into their proper roles in the offense.

Maryland will have four more games against low-level opposition to make adjustments before conference play, and those will be great experiment games to see how to put those freshmen in position to succeed alongside their star guard.

Melo Trimble is very, very good and has become the player that many envisioned that he could be during his freshman season. But he is not a “one-man show” type of player. He is going to need some help. And if the two freshmen, Cowan and Jackson, can grow up quickly (which they are certainly capable), then don’t count out the Terps just because of one tough loss.

It’s college basketball. And we have a long way to go.