Maryland came into Tuesday’s game at Comcast Center against Miami trying to chase away some ghosts from its recent past. The demons came from a double-overtime loss to the Hurricanes three weeks before in Coral Gables, Fla., and a second-half collapse at Virginia three days ago.
Recovering from their most lopsided defeat of the season, the Terps did a major exorcism, scoring 10 straight points in a game-closing 14-4 run in the final 97 seconds to beat the Hurricanes, 75-70, before an announced 12,871. Maryland finally closed the way first-year Mark Turgeon had hoped.
“If we had lost this game by one, I would have been really, really disappointed, but I would have been really proud of my team,” Turgeon said. “Our guys played as a team. We made the plays. … We stepped up and made free throws. It was a great win for us. I know the Notre Dame game looks better, but under that circumstance and this circumstance, it’s just a great win for our team.”
Maryland (16-11 overall, 6-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) was coming off a 27-point loss to the Cavaliers, a game that was tied at halftime before the Terps managed to score only 13 points in the second half. It also helped Turgeon erase the memory of his ejection at Miami on Feb. 1, a game in which Maryland trailed by 16 points shortly after its coach was tossed.
Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin led Maryland with 20 points, but he had plenty of help down the stretch from junior forward James Padgett (a career-high 16 points and six rebounds) and senior guard Sean Mosley (15 points and six assists).
Mosley’s desperation 3-point shot with 1:37 remaining started the run, and Padgett’s 3-point play after a miss by Ashton Pankey gave the Terps the lead for good with 44 seconds left. Freshman guard Nick Faust (City) helped seal the deal with two huge steals, as did 12 straight free throws by the Terps down the stretch.
“Yesterday, we had a great practice, and I would say that’s when we won the game,” said Faust, who also had a layup, on a neat feed from Stoglin, during the late run. “Everyone was together and passing the ball very well, and today we just came in and did the same thing and got the win.”
Calling it his biggest win of the season against a team he believes has the potential to reach the NCAA Sweet 16, Turgeon joked that “I know it only counts as one, but it felt like three”. It was accomplished with two of Turgeon’s most basic tenets: tenacious defense and playing as a team.
“We shared the ball better than we had all year,” said Turgeon, whose team had 15 assists to nine turnovers.
After a fast start gave Maryland an early 10-point lead, the Terps trailed by four at halftime, 35-31, and by seven, 56-49, with a little more than nine minutes left. The Terps would eventually forge a tie at 57 but would fall behind by five, 66-61, with 2:04 to play as the Hurricanes kept knocking down free throws.
“What happened was we kept breaking down in the last five seconds of the shot clock,” Turgeon said. “We’d foul on the drive. We’d guard three ball screens and then we wouldn’t guard the fourth one. So I was like, ‘Here we go again. Let this slip away again out here late.’ But we made adjustments tonight. That’s just a young team growing up.”
Despite being much smaller than the Hurricanes inside, Maryland held Miami without a field goal for nine minutes and limited massive center Reggie Johnson to three points on 1-for-5 shooting. Miami (16-10, 7-6) shot 40.7 percent (22-for-54) as a team.
“That was our focus,” Turgeon said. “I know Reggie got frustrated and Jim [Larranaga, the Miami coach] got frustrated with Reggie. I’ve been all over my post guys, and they’re all such nice guys and between the lines, you’ve got to be tougher. I thought James played with great toughness.”
Turgeon joked about Padgett’s 3-point play that “I think we went the whole month of December without a one-and-one.”
Stoglin said the 3-point play that gave Maryland a 67-66 lead “was the reason we won the game.”
Freshman center Alex Len also had eight points in the second half and blocked two shots.
The victory keeps the notion of an NCAA tournament bid alive, at least in Stoglin’s mind and those of his teammates. While Turgeon is certainly more realistic, saying Monday that he thought the Terps had to win next month’s ACC tournament in Atlanta to qualify, he believes this will help push his tired team through as it prepares to go on the road there Saturday against Georgia Tech.
“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,” Turgeon said. “And when you win a game like that, you’re learning how to win. And I know our program has won. But this group hasn’t won, and so to win a game like that is just going to help our young kids.”
NOTES: Johnny Rhodes, who finished his career (1992-1996) as the school’s all-time steals leader and in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, was honored before the game by having his jersey number hung from the rafters. Rhodes was presented by his former coach, Gary Williams, who was making his first appearance at Comcast Center since having the court named in his honor last month. Rhodes, 38, will be honored as an ACC Legend next month at the ACC tournament in Atlanta.
An earlier version of this article contained the wrong score in two places. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.