As Maryland men’s basketball freshman guard Anthony Cowan used a screen and drove into the lane, three Catawba defenders collapsed on him, leaving fellow rookie Kevin Huerter open in the corner. The No. 62 ranked recruit — according to ESPN — jumped, turned and found the No. 49 player spotting up.
Huerter drilled the long ball as time expired in the first half, capping the Terps’ 17-2 run and awakening the Xfinity Center crowd that had mostly been quiet in Saturday afternoon’s exhibition. Maryland entered the break with a 50-24 advantage.
The play represented the success of Maryland’s freshmen in its 95-61 win over Catawba. Cowan, Huerter and forward Justin Jackson combined to score 38 points in the Terps’ lone tune-up game before they open the season at home against American on Nov. 11.
After the game, coach Mark Turgeon confirmed what he’s known about these freshmen since they arrived in College Park.
“Yeah, they’re good,” Turgeon said. “They’re good players.”
Much of the first-year players contributions came without the help of guard Melo Trimble, who left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle and did not return.
Turgeon labeled the injury as a Grade 1 sprain after the contest. He ensured Trimble would be fine, even stating the All-Big Ten performer would have played if Saturday’s contest was a “big game.”
Trimble did not attempt a field goal in nine minutes, but the rookies made up for his lack of offensive production. Cowan and Jackson were the high scorers among freshmen with 15 points each, while junior guard Jared Nickens led all scorers with 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
Turgeon has said numerous times that Cowan, Huerter and Jackson are the three freshmen he expects to contribute right away, and each of them showed why they can immediately help a Terps team that lost four starters from a year ago.
Cowan’s seven free throw attempts highlighted his ability to get into the lane, and when he didn’t go to the foul line, he was able to finish through contact.
Turgeon said Cowan did a solid job running the offense, which included making the right passes at the right time. Defensively, he lauded the Bowie native for his ball pressure. Cowan had two steals and pushed the ball after missed field goals, both of which led to some easy buckets in transition.
“Anthony, he’s a go getter on the defensive end and the offensive end,” Jackson said. “Whether it’s guarding Melo full court, whether it’s guarding the opposing team’s point guard full court, he does whatever he needs to do to get it done.”
Huerter made two of his six three-point attempts, but his quick release will allow him to get off shots with limited space going forward. Turgeon, as he did with all of the freshmen, praised his passing ability. The sixth-year coach recruited Huerter as a point guard, and those skills were on display Saturday, as he led the team with six assists.
Finally, there was Jackson, a 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-3-wing span who Turgeon called the team’s best rebounder in terms of per-minute production. Jackson’s length was on display Saturday, as he grabbed six rebounds and made two highlight-reel blocks to go along with his 15 points.
“Justin just makes plays,” Turgeon said, “and Justin made a lot of those plays [Saturday].
Cowan was the lone freshman in the starting lineup, joining Trimble, Nickens, forwards L.G. Gill and Damonte Dodd, but that lineup doesn’t appear to reveal much about who will start during the season.
Turgeon said he decided on the starters based on who guarded the best in practice.
“I wanted to start four guys. We only had four guys that guarded,” Turgeon said. “My staff made me start five, so we started a fifth guy. I’m not going to tell you who it was.”
Cowan’s performance in workouts earned him one of those spots, but both Jackson and Huerter could find themselves in that position moving forward. Saturday, all three showed they were capable of handling that type of responsibility.
“All three have a great feel for the game,” Turgeon said. “And they all kind of did their thing today.”