COLLEGE PARK -- When the Maryland men's basketball team got back to campus after Sunday's double-overtime loss at Clemson, one of the first places the Terps headed was to the training room for ice baths to help with their recovery.
What also helped Maryland was that the Atlantic Coast Conference's last-place team was in town.
It took nearly until the end of the first half — and the banishment of sophomore forward Charles Mitchell from the team's bench by coach Mark Turgeon — for the Terps to find a spark in a 64-47 victory over Virginia Tech at Comcast Center.
Turgeon declined to discuss what happened on the bench between Mitchell and assistant coach Scott Spinelli, but Mitchell went to the locker room before returning to the bench — in dress socks — with about eight minutes left in the game.
Asked whether Mitchell would be available for Sunday's home game against No.5 Virginia, Turgeon said he met with Mitchell after the game and will talk with Mitchell today before any decision is made.
“We'll sleep on it,” Turgeon said. “Charles and I will handle it.”
The incident helped wake the Terps up from another first-half slumber. The revival started with a dunk by junior guard Nick Faust right before the halftime buzzer to cut Virginia Tech's lead to one point and continued at the start of the second half.
After another quiet first half, junior guard Dez Wells opened the second half with a steal and a dunk as he was fouled. The three-point play seemed to arouse the small crowd, announced at 10,517, and more importantly, Turgeon's sleepwalking team.
As they did toward the end of the first half of a 20-point win over the Hokies in Blacksburg last month, the Terps went on a 20-8 run that included hitting five of six 3-pointers, three by the previously cold-shooting Jake Layman, on a night when Maryland made just 10 of 32 from long range.
Layman, who was benched after missing 13 of 14 shots against Clemson, led Maryland (16-14, 8-9) with 13 points, while Wells added 11. Joey van Zegeren and Jarell Eddie led Virginia Tech (9-20, 2-16) with 14 points each.
“I was getting open looks in the first half and in the second half, they finally started falling for me,” said Layman, who had missed 17 of 20 shots in his previous two games. “Coach told me to just keep shooting the ball. He said, ‘We all believe in you.'”
Mitchell's exit led to Cleare's playing 13 of his 17 minutes in the second half and finishing the game with six points, including an emphatic dunk, as well as three rebounds and a blocked shot.
“He's fresh. Shaq stays in shape. He works hard,” Turgeon said. “It was a big-time dunk he had, and I thought he had some nice rebounds. He played smarter defensively as the half went on.”
Despite shooting 3-for-10 from the field, sophomore Seth Allen looked more like a point guard than he had recently. Allen finished with five of Maryland's 18 assists and had just one of his team's season-low five turnovers.
The Terps will now finish what has been a frustrating season with a regular season-finale Sunday against the Cavaliers, who claimed their first outright ACC championship in more than 30 years Saturday.
“This is a big win for us going into our next game,” said Wells, who also had an electrifying block on Virginia Tech guard Devin Wilson. “We just want to enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow recover and do what we have to do to get our bodies right and our minds right for the next game.”
But instead of moving forward without any distractions, the Terps will now have to see what happens with Mitchell, the team's starting center for most of the past month and its leading rebounder.
Turgeon has benched only one player during the season in his first three years. It happened when he had former Terp Pe'Shon Howard sit out last season's win over Duke.
Turgeon chose to accentuate the positive.
“That was a good night for us,” he said. “Virginia Tech's played everyone close lately except for at Duke. The first half Virginia Tech made some shots. … I thought our defense was terrific in the second half. Our patience was good. All in all, we needed it.”
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