COLLEGE PARK, Md. — University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon believed that despite entering Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech at the Comcast Center on a three game losing streak his team had been playing much better.
In looking for a message his team could use to turn solid play into actual victories, he channeled a coaching icon.
“My line today (and I’ll give my wife and mother in law credit-my mother in law went to Penn State), Joe Paterno said (in an article) ‘hustle and good things happen'” Turgeon said after Saturday’s game. “So my thought for the day yesterday was ‘have fun, hustle and good things will happen. That was kind of our approach for the last two days. ‘Try to have fun, hustle, and good things will happen’ and it did for us.”
The Terrapins’ 73-69 win over Virginia Tech will never be viewed as iconic itself, but the message was clearly effective. The Terps (13-7, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) hustled out to a 32-19 halftime lead over the Hokies (12-9, 1-5 ACC), then had fun as they held on for the victory-a very good thing after setbacks at Florida State and Temple then at home Wednesday night to Duke.
Turgeon said the aftermath of the lost in Tallahassee sparked a turnaround in his team which finally delivered a victorious result.
“I started getting after them after we lost to Florida State because I didn’t think we played well down there, especially in the second half-we were doing the same things” Turgeon said after the win. “They went in the shower after that game just laughing and joking-and it’s not that way. I say I don’t care about winning and losing, but (Maryland players) know better than that.”
“We talked about giving more and preparing harder, doing what you’re doing and being a better teammate” Turgeon added.
After tough losses to the Owls and Blue Devils, the Terrapins’ improved play finally got them into the win column Saturday. The win came thanks largely to sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, who again lead the team in scoring with 28 points. Most importantly, Stoglin drilled four 2nd half three-pointers as VT attempted to seize momentum.
“He’s got a will to win” Turgeon said. “He hit those back-to-back three’s for us and those were huge.”
Even bigger was a step-back three Stoglin hit with 2:45 left in the game after the Hokies’ had trimmed Maryland’s lead all the way down to five points.
“I just felt they had the momentum” Stoglin said. “I just wanted to make a bucket. I initially wanted to go to the basket but I saw (the defender) was off me, so I just went to pull up. I was really confident in that shot. You get that feeling. They had the momentum, I just wanted to stop it. That’s all it was. I just concentrated on my shot. I knew it was a big shot for my team, I wanted to take it.”
Turgeon’s Paterno-esque message was delivered after what he described as a week where his team (between practice, meetings and games) gave him four good days out of five. Stoglin said the message included a defensive stress.
“He told us after the Duke game he felt our effort was there but it could have been more. He just told us that he wanted our defense to be there tonight and it was.”
“It has been pretty intense and I think that you can see that” Turgeon concurred. “I think you see a team that really cares about each other. Our preparation for the last three games has been off the charts, and this one has by far been the best. It showed by the way we defended and our preparation. I don’t want to brag about them too much because we’ve had three games in one week and we lost two of them, (but) it’s a lot more fun to be around and it’s a lot more fun to coach.”
Beating Virginia Tech by no means puts Maryland back on track to reach the NCAA Tournament, but it is quite possibly the positive step needed to get a team back on track during an unforgiving conference schedule.
Perhaps the message should stay the same. If Maryland continues to have fun and hustle, you’d assume more good things would happen.