COLLEGE PARK — Win or lose, this was going to be a season of firsts for the Maryland men's basketball team in the Big Ten.
So far, losing has not been part of the equation for the 12th-ranked Terps.
After winning its first Big Ten game at Michigan State in double overtime Tuesday night, Maryland took much less time to turn away Minnesota, 70-58, Saturday at Xfinity Center before an announced crowd of 15,788 that was larger and seemed louder than any this season.
Despite not shooting well for the second straight game, freshman point guard Melo Trimble led the Terps with 20 points. Senior guard Dez Wells and junior forward Jake Layman each scored 12. Wells also had seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Trimble and Layman each had six rebounds.
Center Maurice Walker led Minnesota (11-4, 0-2) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
It was the seventh straight win for Maryland (14-1, 2-0), giving fourth-year coach Mark Turgeon his best start since taking over for Hall of Famer Gary Williams and the Terps their best start since 1996-97.
That seemed to mean little to Turgeon despite the criticism he took last season, when the Terps started 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (against Boston College and Georgia Tech) but finished with a 17-15 record.
"What matters to me is how we're playing and I don't think we're playing as well as we can play," Turgeon said. "We're playing well, we're doing enough to win games, but we're figuring out a rotation, we're still getting guys back in. We got to play a more complete game and be a little more consistent. That's really what concerns me right now."
Feeding off the energy from the crowd that is still missing much of the student body, the Terps raced out to a 32-17 lead behind Trimble and sophomore center Damonte Dodd. After Dodd went to the bench with a second personal foul, and Maryland cooled after a hot start shooting 3-pointers, Minnesota went on a 13-0 run.
The Terps led by only three, 36-33, at halftime.
"I think we were so hyped because of the fans, we thought it was just going to be an easy win," said Dodd, who scored nine points, tying his career high, in the first half and also had a career-high 12 rebounds. "We just slacked on defense and we thought our offense was going to win it for us. Then we realized we had to play more defense and that's what picked back up."
Trimble finished 5-for-15 overall (after shooting 2-for-13 at Michigan State) and 1-for-8 on 3-pointers for the second straight game.
"We took a step back because we thought the game was over," he said. "We had a big lead and we thought they [were] going to lay down. Obviously they didn't lay down. We kind of picked it up towards the second half."
Trimble did much of the heavy lifting, scoring six points in a 9-2 run to start the second half. After hitting a baseline jumper, Trimble started driving to the basket and kept going to the free throw line. It proved contagious, as the Terps went to the line 24 times in the second half, hitting 17. Trimble was 9-for-13 overall.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota's second-year coach and the son of Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, said it was a combination of Maryland being aggressive going to the basket and his Gophers not being patient enough to play a full 35 seconds on defense that led to the Terps going to the double bonus with over seven minutes left.
"I don't want to say it was all us because you have to give them credit for putting us in that bind," Pitino said. "I'm going to go back and watch the second half and I think there are going to be a lot of fouls like, 'What are we doing? ... They also put some pressure on us offensively."
If anything, the Terps put even more pressure on one of the Big Ten's better offensive teams with their new-found resolve for playing lockdown defense and being more aggressive on the boards.
Eerily similar to what happened in East Lansing, Mich., earlier in the week, Maryland held the Gophers to 22-for-65 shooting — including 3-for-22 on 3-pointers. The Spartans were 21 of 65 and 5 of 22.
The Terps also blocked a season-high nine shots and outrebounded Minnesota, 44-35. They outrebounded Michigan State, 52-36.
"The one area we are coming quickly is defending and rebounding," said Turgeon, whose NCAA tournament teams at both Wichita State and Texas A&M had a reputation for both. "That's where we improved the most since the break [for final exams]. I expect numbers like this, maybe not 13 percent, especially in this building with that kind of crowd, I expect us to really guard well."
The crowd, though short of a sellout (17,950) was a reminder of what Maryland home games were like on a regular basis in the past.
Not that Trimble, who grew up nearby, can recall those days, given that he was born the year before the last Maryland team started 14-1.
"I don't know too much about the mid-90s, stuff like that, I'm just playing basketball," Trimble said with a smile. "Just having fun out there. My teammates, we all have confidence and that's making everything work."