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Maryland basketball almost lost to American, but it’s not time to worry

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Let’s give this team more than 40 minutes before we write them off.

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

Maryland basketball looked bad on Friday night. There’s no getting around that. The Terps almost lost to a Patriot League team at home in College Park, holding off American, 62-56.

But that’s fine.

Three freshmen, a guard who hadn’t played in 20 months after a meniscus tear, a mid-major transfer, three bench players from a year ago and a benchwarmer played next to Melo Trimble for the first time. Were they supposed to be great already?

Maybe hype is a bit of a killer again. Last season’s No. 3 ranking convinced the public that Maryland couldn’t be stopped. The No. 25 label this year probably isn’t helping either, because this team has a ways to go. Preseason seedings are typically based on incoming freshmen and returning talent. Maryland has both, but it’ll take more than 40 minutes on a basketball court for everything to mesh.

“Just because people have us ranked... we don’t know who we are,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “It’s OK. In the end we won. It’s OK to have a tough game and in the end we’re gonna learn a lot more from it and we’re going to be a better team because it was a close game.”

And we did learn some small things. Anthony Cowan and Melo Trimble can co-exist. L.G. Gill probably needs more minutes and might have to play the five. Kevin Huerter can hit big shots.

A big win would have been preferable, but this close one is nothing to panic about. There’s probably a bit more worry in Connecticut, where the No. 18 Huskies lost to some place named Wagner. Oh, and some other scores from Friday night:

  • No. 7 Xavier 84, Lehigh 81
  • No. 21 Texas 78, Incarnate Word 73
  • No. 22 Creighton 89, University of Missouri-Kansas City 82

Maryland is in some good company.

Still, it’s fair to have some criticisms after this game. Maryland doesn’t have a go-to inside scorer. Damonte Dodd is not the answer. Michal Cekovsky (although he didn’t play) isn’t a scorer. Ivan Bender is still a mystery after playing just nine minutes after returning from a fractured wrist. L.G. Gill might be the answer, but it’s too early to tell. There’s reason to be concerned with the lack of scoring options down low.

But as far as early-season jitters go, players unfamiliar with one another are bound to look shaky early, especially in their first game of the season. It’s not easy for 10 guys who haven’t played together before to find chemistry right away.

“It’s definitely tough, but I think we’re doing a great job,” said L.G. Gill. “Practice has definitely been great, and to see how we play together, everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. The summer was great for us too, but out there you could see at times things got a little antsy. We’re still starting to figure out how we play with each other.”

Don’t overthink this team. The roster wasn’t built to shock on day one, and it may not look just right until deep into the winter. Turgeon has time to figure it all out.