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Refreshed freshmen lead No. 22 Maryland over Minnesota

By
Brian Hall, The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Maryland coach Mark Turgeon broke from his standard practice schedule before the No. 22-ranked Terrapins were set to play in Minnesota on Saturday.

Turgeon had seen some of his freshmen struggle in a home win against Rutgers on Tuesday, so Turgeon gave the players two days off. Along with standout Melo Trimble, it's a trio of freshmen who have helped Maryland to equal its best start in school history.

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The freshmen were refreshed and ready for the Gophers.

Freshman Justin Jackson scored a career-high 28 points for the Terrapins, who survived another close game and beat Minnesota, 85-78, on Saturday. Freshman Kevin Huerter added 19 points as Maryland (19-2, 7-1 Big 10) equaled the 21-game start by the 1998-99 team led by Steve Francis.

"I haven't done that in my career with such a big game," Turgeon said. "This was a huge game for us, and I thought they were fresh because we did that."

Jackson made all five of his 3-point attempts and tied a career high for his first double-double. Huerter was 5 of 7 from 3 and helped hold Gophers second-leading scorer Amir Coffey scoreless in the season half.

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Trimble added 13 points, seven rebounds and had nine assists and no turnovers as Maryland improved to 7-0 on the road. The Terrapins are the only Big 10 team without a road loss this season.

"That's the sign of a good leader," Huerter said. "We know he's always aggressive toward the end of games when we need him to be. Today, there were different looks and he kept finding the open guy."

Akeem Springs had a season-best 23 points in his first year after transferring to Minnesota. Nate Mason added 14 points and Reggie Lynch had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks before fouling out.

The Gophers (15-7, 3-6) lost their fifth straight game and their last four losses are by seven points or less.

"It's just kind of overcoming that hurdle during games," Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. "Just to break it through and make some big plays. We were close. They made them and we did not in the last minute and a half."

Mason hit a 3 with 1:47 left to tie the game at 76-all. But the Terrapins outscored Minnesota 9-2 the rest of the way.

"We just got to get it done," Springs said. "We're at the point where we're either going to get it done or not. That's all it is. We've got to get it done."

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Huerter hit a 3 from the corner for a 79-76 lead, which Maryland never relinquished. The Terrapins, the best 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten, was 11 of 18 from 3, including 7 of 9 in the second half.

Maryland has pulled out plenty of close games, winning eight games this season by six points or less, including three wins by a point.

"I don't know how we do it sometimes," Turgeon said. "Today, we were just really determined. We felt like we were playing well, but we couldn't get the lead. We hit a shot and then they'd hit a shot. We were just really determined to win this game."

Minnesota stayed close by outrebounding Maryland 41-31 for the game, and connecting on 17 of 22 free throws in the second half.

The Gophers took control early when a 13-0 run ended on a dunk by Springs for a 15-8 lead. Maryland had a scoring drought of 5:45 in that span, and Minnesota led by as many as 12 points.

The Terrapins chipped away in the second half, finally tying the game again at 54-all.

NOTES:

-- Maryland G Dion Wiley missed the game after aggravating a back injury, according to The Washington Post. Wiley had returned and played one game against Rutgers after missing the previous four games.

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-- Minnesota was 21st in the latest edition of the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

-- The Gophers beat the Terrapins 68-63 in Minnesota last season when Maryland was ranked fifth in the nation.

-- Terrapins G Melo Trimble had seventh assists to become the fifth player in Maryland history to record at least 1,400 points, 350 assists and 100 steals. He joins Juan Dixon, Greivis Vasquez, Johnny Rhodes and Walt Williams.

-- The Terrapins play at Ohio State on Tuesday. The Gophers are off until Feb. 4 at Illinois.

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