COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If we’ve learned anything about Mark Turgeon in his first year as head coach at Maryland, it’s that he’ll be completely honest with his feelings, no matter how harsh his words might sound at times.
His relationship with sophomore Terrell Stoglin — the leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference — can be described as precarious at best, and that was before Stoglin’s blowup on Twitter in which he defiantly questioned being benched late in the second half of Maryland’s 73-55 loss at Duke last Saturday.
Choosing to handle the matter privately in lieu of the suspension many outsiders suggested, Turgeon allowed his best player to play against Boston College on Thursday night as Maryland played one of its most balanced games of the season in an 81-65 victory at Comcast Center.
“It’s a roller coaster,” said Turgeon of his relationship with Stoglin. “There’s no question about it with him. Tonight, I can’t believe how well [he guarded]. He’s giving effort and trying to do everything I say, but it’s a full-time job for me.”
That roller coaster appeared to take a perilous dip last Saturday, with many wondering if Stoglin’s Twitter comments would be the beginning of the end for the player-coach relationship. Even more concerning was the potential impact that might be felt on the entire team, as Stoglin’s not-so-cryptic comments on social media suggested teammates weren’t pleased with Turgeon’s decision to sit him down for a critical stretch against the Blue Devils.
But instead of a potential collapse against a struggling Boston College group that entered the night having lost seven of its last eight games, Maryland played team-style basketball with 15 assists and smothering defense in holding the Eagles to just below 33 percent from the field in the 16-point win, the Terps’ largest margin of victory this season.
“I talked about two things: we talked about discipline on defense and we talked about being together,” Turgeon said. “I don’t like the way we acted at Duke; I don’t like the way we acted after Duke. We just talked about being a team and being a family and being together and doing it for your teammates. I thought we did that.”
Though talking about his entire team, Turgeon might as well have been speaking about Stoglin directly after questioning his defensive effort and shot selection at different points through the season. The sophomore came out of the gate on fire in the first half, connecting on five 3-pointers and scoring 19 points before halftime. However, there were a few ill-advised shots mixed in, including a missed jumper with 27 seconds remaining on the shot clock and under three minutes to go that had Turgeon visibly upset, even after Stoglin followed the miss with an offensive rebound and put-back.
As is always the case with Stoglin, who entered the evening ranked seventh in the nation in scoring, you take the good with the bad. Thursday trended mostly in the positive direction — even if it wasn’t a perfect performance by Turgeon’s standards.
“I thought I did pretty well,” said Stoglin when asked if he agreed with his coach’s praise of his defense. “Coach was still on me; he’s always on me about little things, but other than that, I think I played pretty well on the defensive end.”
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Turgeon’s decision to allow his mercurial star to play against Boston College, there’s no question that the two need each other. Without Stoglin, Turgeon lacks a single consistent scorer he can depend on. On the flip side, Stoglin dreams of one day playing in the NBA, but he needs Turgeon — whether he realizes it or not at this point — to mold him into the well-rounded player he’ll need to be in order to overcome his slight stature at 6-foot-1.
Stoglin needs to understand Turgeon is in charger, and no matter how many outsiders might be telling him how great he is, the head coach will be around College Park much longer than he will.
Fortunately for all parties involved, Maryland leaned on Stoglin early and the sharpshooting guard delivered by scoring 14 straight Maryland points to build an 18-10 lead that the Terps never relinquished. Stoglin gave way to his teammates in the points column in the second half, scoring only five points while forward James Padgett paced Maryland with 15 points after intermission. The body language was positive and the effort remained consistent.
“It makes my job a lot easier when Terrell hits his first shot,” Turgeon said. “If he can get his points early, then he’s not searching for them the whole game. So, he got them early tonight, and I thought in the second half, he really deferred and just tried to help us win the game.”
The strong start — for both Stoglin and the entire team — was exactly what Turgeon needed to defuse what was an ugly scene on Saturday. It certainly doesn’t solve the love-hate nature of the relationship with Stoglin, but cooler heads have seemed to prevail.
Winning solves just about anything.
“Everyone was just playing off each other,” Stoglin said. “I got my three going early, then everyone got their threes going, and we started going inside. We played together as a team, and it was a good win.”