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SportsTerps

After sloppy start, Maryland rallies for 65-61 win over FIU

BasketballMaryland TerrapinsCollege SportsFlorida International Golden PanthersESPNMark Turgeon

ESPN brought its cameras and crew to Comcast Center on Wednesday night for a nationally televised game between Maryland and Florida International.

Rivalry week, this isn't.

Nor was it an "Instant Classic," but what had the makings of a clunker for the Terps and sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin turned into a grind-it-out 65-61 victory before an announced 11,679.

Nursing a sprained ankle that kept him out of two practices last weekend, and four fouls that kept him off the court for long stretches in the second half, Stoglin scored 20 points on 4-for-13 shooting to lead Maryland (6-3) to its third straight win.

"We were lucky this week because Terrell had an ankle injury and we were able to practice without him for two days. And we had really good practices," first-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "That was great for us. Couldn't have scripted it any better. It was great for Terrell to watch it. That will help his confidence with his teammates. I think we all gain confidence with him sitting over there."

But the Terps needed others, especially after Stoglin picked up his fourth personal foul with 13:07 remaining and Maryland trailing 46-40.

That's when redshirt freshman forward Ashton Pankey, who had sat out most of the first half after taking an early elbow in the mouth that required three stitches, scored twice to keep the Terps close. Pankey finished with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.

That's also when senior guard Sean Mosley made several big plays. Maryland eventually took a 49-48 lead on a 3-point play by Mosley with 9:10 remaining.

Mosley fed Nick Faust (City) for a layup in the waning seconds on an inbounds play after the freshman guard had missed two free throws and the Terps were clinging to a two-point lead.

"We know all the guys on our team can score. In high school, we were all scorers and it's a different atmosphere and level now," Mosley, the state's second all-time leading scorer at St. Frances, said after scoring 12 points Wednesday. "These young guys had to step up, and they did that tonight."

Said Stoglin, who countered his off night from the field by hitting 11 of 13 free throws, "Everyone stepped up to the challenge, and we did good."

So did the Golden Panthers, who played the last minute of the first half and the entire second half without their leading scorer, senior guard DeJuan Wright, because of an apparent knee injury

Phil Taylor scored 20 points and Jeremy Allen added 18 for FIU (3-7), which has played only two games at home in Miami this season under third-year coach Isiah Thomas.

"I thought our guys competed hard," said Thomas, whose Hall of Fame presence might have been as much an attraction for ESPN to show the game nationally. "Losing DeJuan Wright at the half really hurt us, but I thought for the most part, our guys stepped up and played a pretty good basketball game."

The Golden Panthers led by 11, at 34-23, late in the first half, but Stoglin was fouled taking what Turgeon thought was a questionable 3-point attempt.

Allen protested and was called for a technical foul, and Stoglin, whose only field goal in eight shots in the first half came on a wrong-footed, right-handed bank shot in the lane, made four of the five free throws to cut Maryland's defict to seven.

That's where it stayed until halftime.

"The 4-point play was huge," said Turgeon, whose team shot 9-for-25 from the field in the first half and committed nine turnovers compared with only two assists.

Said Stoglin, "We were only down seven, and we played a bad first half."

Turgeon, whose team had been off since nearly blowing a 16-point lead at home to Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 7, played much tougher defensively in the second half. FIU went from shooting 12-for-26 (including 5-for-10 on 3-point tries) in the first half to 11-for-31 (1-for-5 on 3-point attempts) in the second half.

"That was a really good win for us," Turgeon said. "The difference in the game is that we really defended down the stretch. We guarded the ball better. It was really hard for them to score. We weren't very good on the other end, but they couldn't score on us. We won another close game, and that's they key: We figure out how to win close games. We hit just enough free throws [22 of 32], made just enough plays to win another close game. I'm really proud of them."

Turgeon can see his undermanned Terps slowly buying into his program, especially on the defensive end. Maryland could get point guard Pe'Shon Howard back for its next game Dec. 23 against Radford -- at least that's what Howard, out with a broken foot since October, said last weekend -- and will get 7-foot freshman center Alex Len on Dec. 28 against Albany for the first time after a 10-game NCAA suspension.

"We're much better than we were in Puerto Rico," Turgeon said of a tournament that included a 20-point loss to Alabama and a 26-point defeat at the hands of Iona. "Individually, we've come a long ways. Today's the first day I felt that we guarded the way we're capable of guarding. We're not a great defensive team yet, but we can be."

Nor are they a one-man team.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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