COLLEGE PARK—Mark Turgeon's first 19 months at Maryland had been without barely a ripple of discord, at least in public.
The players -- even talented but troubled guard Terrell Stoglin last season -- seemed to take Turgeon's harshest criticism in stride. The media -- many who fussed and fueded with first-year football coach Randy Edsall -- appreciated his honesty. The fans -- who for the past few years had been split when it came to Gary Williams -- adored his down-to-earth nature and never second-guessed his moves.
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Another double-digit lead at home was on the verge of being blown. A third straight loss in the ACC appeared to be inevitable. The most challenging part of the schedule had begun. But with a 51-50 win over No. 14 North Carolina State -- the first victory for the Terps over a ranked team since Greivis Vasquez led them over Duke on that riot-filled night back nearly three years ago -- everyone is happy.
The players could forget about another cold-shooting game and the fact that they couldn't remember any of the plays Turgeon had called coming out of timeouts, including the last one. The media wouldn't question why Turgeon started playing musical lineups again after less than 6 1/2 minutes, despite his starters building an early 12-point lead. The fans wouldn't be wondering if all the hype about Alex Len, Dez Wells and the talented freshmen was overblown.
About the only one who wasn't totally happy was, of course, Turgeon himself.
Turgeon said he was happy for his players, and for the fans who stormed the court, but as a basketball purist who played for Larry Brown and later coached under Brown both at Kansas and in the NBA before launching his own head coaching career, Turgeon probably didn't sleep any better after this much-needed win than had his young team found another way to lose.
"We were zero for timeouts, there was not one timeout that they did what I asked -- not one," Turgeon said, with his now expected bluntness and Brown-like exasperation. "We practiced timeouts two days ago. That's where we are guys. It's not fun. Pe'Shon [Howard] is looking over at me after a timeout like 'What?' He's dribbling the ball at halfcourt and I just drew the play up. It's frust- ... that's where we are."
Yet Turgeon understands what the alternative might have been had Maryland gone into the Dean Dome on Saturday against North Carolina on a losing streak, with a return trip to Tobacco Road the following Saturday at Duke looming on what would have been a rather bleak horizon. The 13-1 start to the season would not only have been a distant memory, but a point of ridicule for the schedule Maryland had played.
"It would have been tough, it would have been tough for all of us," Turgeon said. "I said it after the Miami game [a 54-47 road loss Sunday], we got better in that game. It was an ugly game, we competed, but they're really good, espeically at home. We just felt like we grew up. We rebounded better. We've gotten so much tougher at the guard spot. That was a step in the right direction. We got to hang our hat on defense and win by one."
The season could turn back around quickly if Maryland can figure out how to start making some shots. Saturday, the Terps play a Tar Heels team that avoided its own 0-3 start in the ACC by beating Florida State in Tallahassee last Saturday, but also a North Carolina team that narrowly beat East Carolina and UNLV at home.
Boston College, one of the ACC's worst teams, visits here next Tuesday.
Duke is hurting, with Ryan Kelly out indefinitely and Seth Curry hobbling.
Sometimes, a busted play that ends with the kind of manna-from-heaven moment -- actually it was an airball-from-Howard moment -- Len and the Terps found Wednesday night can turn around a season. Heck, a Wolfpack team won a national championship 30 years ago when Dereck Whittenburg's airball turned into a Lorenzo Charles dunk to beat Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma in Alburquerque.
Whittenburg was there at Comcast Center on Wednesday night, as a scout for the Utah Jazz. So was Bobby Valvano, the late N.C. State coach Jim Valvano's younger brother, as a radio analyst less than a month after suffering a heart attack. Maryland didn't win anything but an ugly game against a ranked team it was favored to beat -- that's crazier than the Ravens being 9 1/2 point underdogs this week.
But everyone is happy.
Everyone but Turgeon, who was probably not going to sleep well even as his Maryland honeymoon continues.