COLLEGE PARK — After the University of Maryland basketball team suffered a disastrous second half letdown in a 71-44 loss at the University of Virginia Saturday, it would have been easy to believe a season ending freefall had begun.
Head coach Mark Turgeon said he only needed 48 hours to believe that wasn’t going to be the case.
“I was so down. There was nothing going on on the bus (after the loss in Charlottesville), there was no one talking except me and I was just yelling at my assistants, just venting to them” Turegon said. “We finished practice (Monday) and we had a great practice. I said ‘you know what? Everybody around here thinks we’re just going to roll over and quit and you showed me today that we’re not.’ I went home and had a great night with my family, enjoyed dinner, slept well, and that’s all you can ask as a coach.”
Turgeon’s intuition proved totally accurate, as his Terrapins rallied from a late deficit Tuesday night to beat Miami 75-70 at Comcast Center. The Terrapins (16-11, 6-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed by five points in the final two minutes of the game, but got big plays from G Sean Mosley and F/C James Padgett to overcome the Hurricanes (16-10, 7-6 ACC). Turgeon called the win the best his team had recorded all season.
“I know the (December) Notre Dame game probably looks like it’s better, but under that circumstance and under this circumstance it was just a great win for out team.”
This circumstance being just days removed from the Terps’ worst performance since an early season beatdown suffered at the hands of Iona in the 5-Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Maryland scored just 13 points in the second half of their loss at John Paul Jones Arena, looking at times as though a thin roster and lack of NCAA Tournament hopes had combined to suck the life out of the team.
The life returned in a big way Tuesday night, proving Turgeon’s message was still ringing with a thin group of overachieving players.
“If we would have lost this game by, I would have been really, really disappointed, but I would have been really proud of my team.” Turgeon said. “Tonight I really felt the coaching-we’d call a play and they’d actually run it. We changed some things offensively which really helped us. Our guys played as a team. The crowd got into it late. We made all the plays – Sean (Mosley) made a big three, Padgett the and-one, (Freshman G) Nick (Faust) the big steal, we stepped up and made free throws. It was just a great win for us.”
A win over a Tournament bubble team in Miami does not suddenly lift the Terrapins’ postseason hopes, but it likely prevents a young group of players from feeling sorry for themselves and sleepwalking through the end of the season. It might not pay dividends immediately, but it could have a long term effect as Turgeon suggested postgame.
“That’s the kind of win right there that will carry over hopefully for the rest of the year and into the future because we are a young team and we’ve got to learn how to win. And when you win a game like that, you’re learning how to win. And I know our program has won-I understand they won 19 games last year. But this group hasn’t won and so to win a game like that is just going to help our young kids.”
Perhaps the most important of those young kids is Faust, who also said the victory was the biggest of his career.
“I would say this is a win that will carry over. We’ve seen that we can play as a team and overcome. Even when we’re down we can still get back in the game; so this is a win that will carry over.”
While it was Sophomore G Terrell Stoglin (20 points) who again lead the way for the Terrapins, the positive contributions from Padgett (16 points, six boards and the late three point play) and Faust (eight points, eight rebounds and a crucial late steal) offer a bright spot and a building block for players and fans alike moving towards Turgeon’s second season.
The next two or three weeks aren’t likely to be very rewarding for the Maryland program, but the sustained growth from this group could be exactly what is needed to reap rewards in the future.
Either way, it’s a much better feeling than watching a group of players fall apart as they did just three days earlier.