There is a certain anxiety that comes with being a Maryland fan this season and watching a team that is clearly maturing but still prone to missed free throws and other lapses that turn potential blowout victories into tense affairs at the end.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has used the word "young" so many times to describe his team that he has begun to apologize for repeating himself.
On Saturday, Maryland showed its growth -- but also its inexperience -- in a 73-69 victory over Virginia Tech in which the Terps built a 15-point lead but had to hold on at the finish.
Terrell Stoglin scored 21 of his 28 points -- including two big 3-pointers -- in the second half as the Terps ended a three-game losing streak. Stoglin shot just 6-for-11 from the foul line, but Sean Mosley made five straight second-half free throws and had an important blocked shot to help secure the win.
"I think up until the 38-minute mark, we were as good as we've been this year," Turgeon said. "But true to course, the way we are, we had to make it interesting -- giving up layup after layup and we missed free throws. Any win is a good win. We are 3-3 in the league, and we're heading in the right direction."
Maryland turned the ball over 16 times, its third-highest total in 20 games.
It was an important win for the Terps (13-7, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) because it was against a clearly beatable opponent at Comcast Center, where Maryland has lost just twice this season. The Hokies (12-9, 1-5) have lost six of their past seven games.
With the Terps on a season-worst losing streak, Turgeon shared with his players during the week a statement attributed to late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
"One quote from yesterday's practice was 'Hustle and have fun, and good things will happen,' and that's what happened today," Mosley said.
The Terps did hustle early, pounding the ball inside on offense and holding the Hokies to 24 percent shooting in the first half as Maryland took a 32-19 lead.
"It was definitely a physical game," said Maryland forward Ashton Pankey, who was assertive early and finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. "There was a lot of jawing going on out there, and the referees had to break it up a lot. I feel like it's a little rivalry going on between us and [Virginia Tech]."
Former Maryland assistant coach Rob Ehsan found himself on the other side of the border rivalry -- he is now a Virginia Tech assistant -- and Pankey said the Terps "had something to prove" to Ehsan.
"I know Coach Rob, and it was a little tension going on between us," Pankey said.
The Hokies cut Maryland's lead to 38-32 on a free throw by Dorenzo Hudson. But then Stoglin, the ACC's leading scorer, heated up.
Maryland's lead became 43-34 on Stoglin's 3-pointer and quickly 46-34 on another 3 by the sophomore.
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said those two 3-pointers were "huge."
"Those were our mistakes. It had nothing to do with him," Greenberg said. "It was two possessions where we didn't do a very good communicating in defensive transition."
Mosley (St. Frances) helped preserve Maryland's lead with a big blocked shot with the Terps ahead 60-52 and 3:35 left.
Virginia Tech was still in it when Mosley was fouled by Robert Brown, a freshman, on a desperation shot with the shot clock about to expire.
Said Greenberg of the freshman mistake: "I can't fault someone trying really hard, and hopefully [it will be] a learning experience."
Mosley's two free throws pushed the lead back to 66-58 with 1:09 left. Mosley's afternoon included 15 points and a flagrant foul call -- apparently for using an elbow.
"I don't get into the referee situation," Mosley said when asked about the foul call, which fans disputed.
Brown's 3-pointer cut the margin to 71-69 before Stoglin hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left for the final margin.
The Terps next head to Miami on Wednesday night. Maryland is 0-2 in ACC road games.
After a loss at Florida State on Jan. 17, Turgeon said he was irritated to find players "laughing and joking" in the showers.
Since then, the coach said, "we've talked about giving more and preparing harder" and that the results are beginning to show.