"I think every mistake he pointed out was me," Mitchell said with a chuckle moments after the Maryland men's basketball team notched a 70-53 win over Georgia Southern before 10,282 at Comcast Center on Saturday night. "He got after me so bad."
It didn't take Mitchell long to move forward. Playing against a handful of friends and acquaintances, the Marietta, Ga., native provided relentless energy off the bench en route to a career-high 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Terps' fourth straight victory.
Of course, Mitchell's memorable night was merely part of a much larger storyline. Just as they've done multiple times this season, the Terps relied on superior size and depth to wear down an unheralded opponent and capture a convincing home win. Mitchell led five Terps in double-figure points, and Maryland's bench outscored the Eagles' reserves, 37-9.
That depth allowed the Terps to go on a 19-7 run to open the second half, putting the game out of reach for a pesky Georgia Southern squad eager to earn a milestone win. It also helped the Terps overcome a stingy zone defense, as well as solid nights from Eagles guards C.J. Reed (15 points) and Eric Ferguson (13 points).
"It wasn't really a fun game to be a part of," Turgeon said. "But in the end, our guys won."
For much of the first half, the Terps' first loss in more than three weeks seemed a realistic possibility. Georgia Southern hit three 3-pointers to take an early 9-1 lead, forcing Turgeon to call a timeout less than 3 1/2 minutes into the game. Mitchell responded with three quick baskets, and freshman guard Seth Allen's 3-pointer gave the Terps their first lead, 12-11, with 11:10 remaining in the first half.
Turgeon's squad traded baskets with the Eagles and entered halftime with a 29-26 lead. It was the third straight game the Terps led an unheralded nonconference opponent by 10 or fewer points after the first 20 minutes of play.
"We were sluggish out there basically the whole first half," Terps guard Logan Aronhalt said. "We've been doing that the past couple games, coming out without any energy."
Desperate for a spark, Turgeon shuffled his lineup to start the second half. Mitchell and guards Seth Allen and Aronhalt joined usual starters Nick Faust and Alex Len in a group that presented the ideal mix of outside shooting and post presence.
Mitchell used his massive frame to create space for offensive boards. The 7-foot-1 Len regularly dunked on his diminutive defenders, scoring nine of his 10 in the second half. And the Eagles' increased focus down low helped Aronhalt hit all four of his 3-point attempts as he finished with a season-high 12 points.
When Aronhalt netted his final 3 of the night with about 5 minutes remaining, the Terps held a 64-48 lead — their largest advantage to that point of the game. The two teams exchanged blows until the final buzzer, and the Terps left Comcast Center with their third double-digit victory in their past four games.
Turgeon called the win "dysfunctional" during the postgame news conference. After all, Georgia Southern — a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2005 — gave the Terps all they could handle for the first 20 minutes. They forced them into costly turnovers, bothered point guard Pe'Shon Howard and drained necessary jumpers.
But yet again, the Terps' talented 10-man rotation wore down a squad thin on playmakers. And as for Mitchell? He made his case for a bit less attention in Sunday's film session.
"I'm going to do whatever it takes to help my team win," Mitchell said. "If that meant showing energy tonight, that's what I was going to do."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun