COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Freshmen Mark Gasperini and Sa'eed Nelson put together a solid collegiate debut combining for 26 points, but late free throws allowed No. 25 Maryland to escape with a season-opening over the Eagles, 62-56 , on Friday evening at XFINITY Center.
Gasperini and Nelson played 24 and 35 minutes, respectively and were tough on both ends of the floor. Gasperini finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, three rebounds, and two assists. Nelson has 12 points, three steals, two rebounds and dazzled on the floor with his ball-handling skills.
American (0-1) outshot the Terrapins in all three shooting categories. The Eagles connected on 42 percent from the floor, 35 percent from the outside and 80 percent from the line. AU hit eight triples with Delante Jones, Leon Tolksdorf and Gasperini each draining a pair.
The Terps bested the Eagles on the glass (44-22) but it was American's defense that forced 18 turnovers.
Nelson was solid running the point for American as he did not commit a turnover and was conservative on the defensive end with three fouls.
The Eagles edged out Maryland in points off turnovers (23-13). Nelson scored a pair on the fast break after he went coast-to-coast in the first.
Jones added 10 points and battled throughout the night after being guarded by Maryland's top defender Melo Trimble.
For the Terps, Trimble led all scorers with 22 points. Anthony Cowan has 12 points, nine rebounds and shot 3-of-4 from the field. Off the bench, L.G. Gill provided 11 points in 22 minutes. He did most of his damage from the free throw line (7-of-8).
Maryland led early in the contest 9-4 on a jumper by Melo at 14:49. AU trailed 14-11 with nine minutes left on a jumper by Jones. The Eagles then took an 18-16 lead on a 6-0 run culminating with a three by Tolksdorf at 5:09.
The rest of the opening half remaining close with Maryland tying the game 26-all on an old-fashioned three-point play by Cowan with 2:50 left in the frame. The Terps went into the half with a 31-25 lead after Melo scored the last three points with less than 40 seconds remaining.
Tolksdorf scored all eight points in 12 minutes on 3-of-4 shooting. Trimble has 13 for the Terrapins.
American tied the contest at 14:40 on a layup by James Washington. Nelson's three free throws retook the lead at 12:39 (39-36). AU had its largest advantage by four (47-43) with 7:34 remaining on another drive by Washington.
Maryland took the lead for good off a 5-0 run (55-49) on a three by Kevin Huerter. Jones hit a late three, but the closest deficit was three (57-54) at 1:35.
American will stay on the road for a contest at Texas A&M on Monday evening at 8 p.m ET (7 p.m. CT). Maryland meets Georgetown on Tuesday at 6:30 from the Verizon Center.