Sometimes, the media will ask a coach a question following a game and – just like that – it’s clear it was the right one.
There were a half-dozen media types in the room when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon emerged following his team’s 60-55 victory over Virginia Tech – Maryland’s first ACC road win.
“Coach, what did you say at halftime?” one of the reporters asked. That turned out to be the winner because of the response it elicited.
“I said I need men, not pouters,” Turgeon said. “I said guys that pout and feel sorry for themselves are going to watch the NCAA tournament. Teams that have men are going to be in it. And at some point we’ve got to grow up and be men.”
Turgeon continued: “They responded. Now, did we totally grow up tonight? I don’t know. But (it’s a) a step in the right direction.”
I liked Turgeon’s response not because he was talking tough – coaches do that all the time – but because he seized on something important about his young team.
Turgeon’s issue with his team -- which started one senior, one freshman and three sophomores last night – isn’t so much that they make mistakes. Everyone does that. Rather, it’s that they compound their errors by not playing through them. They grumble to themselves, lose focus, try to atone for their mistakes all at once.
That appears to be what happened after the Terps bolted to an 11-point, first-half lead last night. They went cold and fell into a funk.
How bad was it? After taking a 21-10 lead, the Terps scored one point over the next six-plus minutes. They were colder than the freezing rain that pelted Cassell Coliseum during the game, icing streets and parking lots.
But the Terps persevered. Turgeon, who is still figuring out his rotation, must have gotten his players’ attention because Maryland came out on a 14-3 run to open the second half. Maryland didn’t trail after that, although the Hokies cut the margin to a single point.
So who were those pouters? Dez Wells conceded he was one. He said he allowed himself to become frustrated with his first-half turnovers. But he was still the floor leader in crunch time.
Wells, by the way, had this to say about Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, who scored 29 points: “I’ve guarded better players.”
But Green was pretty good. He scored a combined 57 points in his two games against the Terps this season.