COLLEGE PARK — Nick Faust wagged his tongue as he ran back on defense, spreading his arms like wings.
The junior had just hit a 3-pointer from the corner to push Maryland's lead to eight points with 1:16 remaining in its desperately-needed 74-66 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
For the Terps, it was a highlight moment of one of their best — and perhaps, most important — halves of the season.
It remains to be seen whether the Terps (11-7 overall, 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), who play Monday at North Carolina State (11-7, 1-4), can sustain the energy they uncorked in that second half. Maryland scored 49 points after halftime, the team's best second-half output in a conference game this season.
After he failed to score before halftime, Dez Wells had 17 points in the second half — including 11 on free throws.
The team's performance in the second half, which started with Maryland trailing by nine points and the home crowd growing increasingly anxious, left Terps players buoyant. Turgeon joked with the media after the game, teasing reporters and remarking, "I'm in a good mood."
The afterglow from the win over the Fighting Irish seemed to have carried into the weekend's practices.
"I don't know what it's going to do for the rest of the season, but I know what it did for the short term," Turgeon said after the Terps practiced Sunday at Comcast Center.
It's hard to imagine how different the mood would have been without Maryland's second-half comeback over Notre Dame.
Before then, Maryland's season appeared on the verge of spiraling out of control.
The Terps had been routed in back-to-back road games by Pittsburgh and Florida State. Maryland shot 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) in the second half of a 79-59 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 6 before making only 17 of 51 (33.3 percent) shots against the Seminoles in an 85-61 defeat on Jan. 12.
Those embarrassments — combined with home losses to Oregon State and Boston University earlier in the season — had left the fan base frustrated with Turgeon and his team.
"If we would have lost the [Notre Dame] game and played the same way in the second half as we did in the first half, we'd be searching," Turgeon said. "But the guys responded and had a good second half, shared the ball, shot it better, defended pretty well. Gave them a little confidence."
Turgeon doesn't pay much attention to media reports or fan websites. But he seems to sense when he and his team are being criticized.
After the Notre Dame game, the coach could only hope his team had rebounded from the back-to-back blowouts.
"There's always a turning point in the season," he said. "You hope Florida State was our low point. You hope it was. We don't know yet. Lots of basketball left."
Maryland has been helped emotionally by the knowledge that traditional ACC powers Duke and North Carolina already have multiple conference losses. After Syracuse (18-0, 5-0), the league seems wide open enough for the Terps to still make a mark.
"Nobody is really undefeated, except for Syracuse," said point guard Seth Allen, who said Sunday that he's "getting better every day" after returning from a broken foot in a win over Tulsa on Dec. 29. Allen started for the first time this season against Notre Dame.
N.C. State has lost three in a row, including a 35-point loss at Duke on Saturday. T.J. Warren, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward expected to be guarded by Faust and Wells, leads the Wolfpack with 22.2 points per game, the most in the ACC.
Maryland is 1-2 on the road in conference games this season. Last season, the Terps won two ACC road games. The season before, they won one.
"It comes time you've got to figure out how to win on the road," Turgeon said. "It's time."
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