COLLEGE PARK — The thought had to cross the mind of many Maryland fans when sophomore forward Charles Mitchell made layups on his team’s first two possessions against Wake Forest on Tuesday night at Comcast Center.
Why couldn’t he have made a layup or dunk or a jump hook against Duke in the final seconds of Saturday’s 69-67 loss to the No. 8 Blue Devils? Funny how the memories of those agonizing misses never made it into Mitchell’s head in his team’s 71-60 win over the Demon Deacons.
Even when he hit a baby hook on the exact same curl play the Terps ran at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the one that hit the back rim and the front rim before falling off with less than a second to play.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about me missing shots in the last game,” Mitchell said Tuesday night. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh I’m nervous because I missed the last shot’. I’m going to miss shots, that shot was a big shot if you look at it. I just came out here today with another mindset [of] just winning this game.”
The jump hook that almost went in against Duke got most of the attention, but the shot that Mitchell might have thought about more was the wide-open dunk or layup he had on the previous play.
“Actually when I caught the ball, I wasn’t even looking at the basket, I I didn’t know how wide open I was,” he said. “When I caught it, I bobbled it, so I didn’t know if I was open again, so I took another dribble and that’s when I got blocked [out of bounds]. I feel bad because I could have [gone] straight up. I had to go to the next play and the next play so happened I got the ball again.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon wasn’t surprised that Mitchell moved on so quickly after the Duke game.
“It wasn’t Charles’ fault, Charles played his tail off in that game, and it just happened to roll out instead of rolling in,” Turgeon said of Mitchell, who finished with 12 points on six of 15 shooting, along with six rebounds against Duke.
Mitchell said that his jump hook is “starting to fall, I’m starting to get comfort in the low post.”
Mitchell’s strong start Tuesday led to him scoring 12 points on six of eight shooting while pulling down a team-high seven rebounds. He also missed all three of his free throws and committed five of Maryland’s 12 turnovers.
“He can score it,” Turgeon said afterward. “He’s got his jump hook working right now, he rebounded pretty well, I thought he defended, just turned it over too much tonight. He gets a little bit careless. But we all moved forward. We knows what lies ahead.”
Asked how he was able to put the Duke loss and his role in it behind him, Mitchell said, “After you look at it awhile and you assess what happened, at the end of the day, I wanted to win, not just me but for the whole state, for the whole rivalry.
“I had to look past it because we had to focus on the next five games coming up and try to get every win possible going into the ACC tournament. I couldn’t just dwell on that game, knowing I had to come out here and play a good game today.”
Not that Mitchell was allowed to forget about it immediately. Mitchell said he watched a replay of the last shot “10, 12 times and I then I saw the repeat on ESPN so many times, I just stopped watching ESPN. You have to get over it. I wish it fell, but it didn’t. So I just had to move on about it.”
Mitchell said he had been in that situation “many times” in high school.
“I’m never scared of the big moment to help my team if the ball’s in my hands," he said. "I had to take the big shot and I did."
Mitchell said that after turning his phone on when Maryland’s plane landed at BWI Saturday night, “I had 150 text messages and a billion tweets. I really didn’t try to focus on it. I knew a lot of people were going to try to text me. I had my phone on airplane mode and soon as I hit the button, my phone just went off. When we got to Maryland, I said ‘Here we go.’”
Inevitably, the Terps will run that curl play again between now and the end of the season and it might end up with the same shot for Mitchell.
“Everybody knows that play now, everybody denying Dez [Wells] like they did in the Duke game, they’re starting to deny it because they know it’s a curl play,” he said. “When they deny him, there’s nowhere for me to go but to the cup and score the ball.”