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After slow start, No. 3 Maryland puts on a show in season opener vs. Mount St. Mary's, 80-56

Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about his team's season-opening win over Mount St. Mary's, 80-56 in College Park. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

COLLEGE PARK — There is a difference between being an unranked team that surprises its own fans and plays early-season games in mostly empty arenas, and one with expectations to match its high national ranking playing before an opening-night sellout.

That difference was on display for the No. 3 Maryland men's basketball team Friday night during a season-opening 80-56 victory over Northeast Conference preseason favorite Mount St. Mary's at Xfinity Center.

Playing against a pesky bunch of 3-point-shooting Mountaineers, the Terps lived up to their ranking by showing off a combination of size, unselfishness and efficient shooting that characterizes fifth-year coach Mark Turgeon's team.

Still, it seemed as if the announced 17,950 wanted to see more.

Eventually, it did.

While the Terps had five players score in double figures — senior forward Jake Layman led Maryland with 16 points and sophomore point guard Melo Trimble finished with 14 — it was a unit of mostly reserves that helped put the game away.

Leading by as many as 18 points in the first half and 11 at halftime, Maryland saw its lead cut to nine early in the second half, 49-40, before an 11-1 run helped give the Terps, and their fans, some breathing room.

On successive possessions, sophomore forward Michal Cekovsky scored inside, sophomore wing Jared Nickens buried a 3-pointer, and senior Rasheed Sulaimon, who started at shooting guard but was spelling Trimble at the point, hit a jumper from the right elbow.

"I think that's the special thing about our team, period. We don't look at the first five or the second five," Sulaimon said. "We just have 10 good basketball players. One thing Coach always tells us — it's going to be our mantra for this year — is just to play hard. At that point in the game, we just tried to give our team a lift. We have more depth and we kind of wore them down."

Said Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian: "I think their depth is pretty special."

The second-half stretch in which the Terps put the game away followed a formula Turgeon hopes to replicate often this season, even in the Big Ten Conference: Wear down the opposition with too much depth, height and Trimble.

"I think once the second team got in, it was no letdown," said Trimble, who left the game in the second half with an apparent back injury. "They pretty much picked up and got us rolling throughout the first half. Last year, we couldn't rely on that; [starters] had to play a lot."

Trimble, who often was needed to play nearly all 40 minutes of games last year, was needed for just 25 minutes Friday. Layman played the most (29), and nine players in all got double-digit minutes.

Calling the game "fun to watch" from the bench, Trimble said of his limited time: "It definitely felt different, but really, I'm just happy for my teammates. I expect to play fewer minutes early in the season. Coach Turgeon sat me down and told me that. Since we have so much depth on the team, we can still perform well, even when I'm not in the game."

And, unlike last season, when Trimble often had to take games over when guard Dez Wells was out injured, the sophomore star has plenty of support this season, particularly inside.

The trio of freshman center Diamond Stone, sophomore center Damonte Dodd and Cekovsky combined for 24 points and 15 rebounds, with 10 points and seven rebounds coming from Stone. Nickens finished with 11 points and six rebounds, while junior transfer Robert Carter Jr. finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

As a team, Maryland shot 33 of 56 (58.9 percent) and outrebounded the Mountaineers 44-20. The Terps also cut down their turnovers from 23 in an exhibition win last Friday against a Division II team to 14 Friday, with only five in the second half.

"Having so many weapons is nice to have," said Layman, who shot seven of 10 from the field, including an alley-oop dunk on a 30-foot pass from backup guard Jaylen Brantley. He added five rebounds and two blocked shots.

The Terps now have the weekend to get ready for Tuesday's much-anticipated home matchup against Georgetown in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games, the first regularly scheduled game against the Hoyas since 1993.

"It's Georgetown, and a lot of people are talking about it," said Trimble, who said he would be able to play despite leaving Friday's game midway through the second half with an apparent back injury. Trimble struggled with back spasms for part of last season. "I think we'll be excited. I don't think we'll be nervous."

Christian, who watched film of 3-pointer-reliant Virginia Military Institute playing Maryland last season, said the improvement is quite noticeable for a team he and others see competing for a national championship.

"The difference between this year and last year is that they're a lot better," Christian said.

And a lot deeper.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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