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Terps

Maryland's 6-0 start impressive for comebacks, historic for close games and lineups

The manner in which the Maryland men's basketball has won its first six games of the 2016-17 season is historic in two interesting ways, at least for everyone besides coach Mark Turgeon.

The Terps have come from behind in the second half in four of their five games against Division I competition, and have won by a combined 32 points in those games going into Saturday's game against Kansas State (5-0).

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That is the fewest number of points for a Maryland team that won its first five games against Division I teams, 13 fewer than the 1957-58 team that became the first in school history to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Turgeon began the season with freshmen Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter in the starting lineup – the first time two freshmen have started the opener since Joe Smith and Keith Booth in 1993-94.

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Now that Turgeon is starting a third freshman – Justin Jackson – it is believed to the be the first time in program history that three freshmen have started together in multiple games, and possibly at any point.

History aside, what has been the most impressive thing is how the Terps have finished games – with star junior Melo Trimble leading, the three freshmen making big plays and with three different players at center.

Trimble tied his career high with 31 points in Friday's 88-82 overtime win over Richmond in the opening round of the Barclays Center Classic, but he had help from his supporting cast.

Cowan scored 18 points, and hit six of eight free throws in overtime. The 6-foot point guard got the Terps off to a good start in overtime by going in for an offensive rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Trimble and getting fouled.

Jackson finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Though he missed a potential game-winning free throw with 13 seconds left in regulation, the 6-7, 225-pound forward was a big factor on the boards in the second half and hit a huge 3-pointer after the Terps saw a 57-52 lead turn into a 65-60 deficit.

Huerter had his first college double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-7, 190-pound wing was about the only Terp rebounding in the first half, but it was his long back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half that helped Maryland climb back from what had been a 12-point halftime deficit.

Though he didn't have as good a game statistically against Richmond as he did in his delayed season opener against Stony Brook on Tuesday in College Park, junior center Michal Cekovsky was more active inside, with six rebounds and four points in 17 minutes.

In the absence of senior center Damonte Dodd, who sat out a second straight game with a concussion, Cekovsky -- who finished the game -- and redshirt sophomore Ivan Bender -- who started -- combined for 11 points, 10 rebounds and five fouls in 42 minutes.

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While the competition hasn't exactly been stellar – Georgetown, which is rated 66th by ESPN in its ratings percentage index, is the only team in the top 100 the Terps (83rd in the RPI) have played – the 6-0 start is impressive when considering the manner in which Maryland has done it and who Turgeon has used to start and finish games.

Some might scoff at Turgeon calling the win over Richmond "a really, really great win for this young team of mine," but given what has happened all over college basketball this season, especially to Big Ten teams, making four second-half comebacks so early in the year with so many freshmen and untested players playing important roles is impressive.

At Maryland, it might even be considered historic.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56


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