New Maryland coach Mark Turgeon emerged from the Comcast Center tunnel Sunday night to a polite smattering of applause. There was no musical introduction by the band. No fist pump. It was a new era, and it was beginning quietly.
But Turgeon, who said he avoids drawing attention to himself, shares an intensity with his more animated predecessor, Gary Williams. So you can bet that Turgeon wanted his team to make an impression -- particularly on defense, which is the coach's specialty -- in his Maryland debut at Comcast Center.
After a shaky start, the Terps asserted themselves behind guard Terrell Stoglin (22 points) and forwards James Padgett (12 points) and Ashton Pankey (13 points) and defeated a young UNC-Wilmington team, 71-62.
Turgeon said he was not sentimental about his Maryland debut. "I don't want to say I didn't care, but it was another game. It felt really routine to me," he said.
He said all his attention was directed at beating the Seahawks, not on the gravity of the moment. "I didn't feel like we were going to lose ever," Turgeon said.
Turgeon seemed most pleased about his team's defense. "Defensively we've come a long ways," he said after the Terps held UNC-Wilmington to 2-for-6 on 3-pointers in the second half.
"That was was the best part of our game tonight was our defense," said Padgett, who has worked on drawing offensive fouls.Padgett, a junior, made his first career start and said he was thrilled at being able to play an extended period. "I can get warm, I can get into the flow of the game, I can make mistakes" without worrying about being pulled, Padgett said. It was also the first career start for Pankey, swingman Mychal Parker and freshman guard Nick Faust (City). The only experienced starter was Sean Mosley (77 career starts), who seems to be playing more assertively now that he is the acknowledged senior leader.
Stoglin did not start but entered almost immediately. Turgeon was vague about why Stoglin was not in the opening lineup, saying only that he expects his players to do things "a certain way" and that "it is nothing big."
"It was between me and coach. We're going to work on it together," Stoglin said. Once he entered the game, he said he was intent on showing Turgeon that "I wanted to play defense."
With so many new pieces in prominent roles, Maryland seemed to come out anxious. Among those starting slowly was Faust, the talented freshman. He went scoreless in a first half that included an airball jumper. "He was pressing," Turgeon said.
The 6-foot-6 Faust recorded his first college field goal on a dunk early in the second half. He also made his presence felt with rebounds and steals and finished with seven points.
The Terps led 32-27 after a first half in which they missed missed eight of their first 12 shots and failed to convert any 3-pointers.Maryland ended the game 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Maryland briefly pulled away in the second half. The lead became 44-31 on a Pankey jumper and 49-35 on a Berend Weijs dunk. Weijs ot into foul trouble, finishing with four fouls. Maryland scored heavily in the paint and made 11 more free throws than the Seahawks.UNC-Wilmington closed to 65-59 in the final two minutes. But the Seahawks turned the ball over, leading to a pair of Faust free throws.
Stoglin followed with two foul shots, making it 69-59.
Since Turgeon is so passionate about defense, he couldn't have pleased that Adam Smith a 6-foot-1 guard playing his first college game burned the Terps for 16 first-half points. Smith is among eight freshmen on the roster of UNC-Wilmington, a Colonial Athletic Association school.
Smith, guarded variously by Mosley and Faust, had seven second-half points to finish with 23.