RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO — UPDATE: The Cancun Challenge released a statement Thursday regarding Wednesday night's postgame incident: "No Cancun Challenge tournament official heard Dan Hurley make any derogatory comments toward Maryland players during Wednesday night's postgame handshake. Additionally, no Cancun Challenge tournament official spoke to the press about hearing any derogatory comments by Hurley."
UPDATE 2: On a teleconference Friday, Terps coach Mark Turgeon was asked whether Maryland plans to pursue any further action against Hurley.
"I moved on right after the game. It's behind us," Turgeon said.
The biggest story to emerge from Wednesday's Cancun Challenge championship game was not the performance of the No. 2 Maryland men's basketball team, which finally played up to its preseason hype by crushing Rhode Island, 86-63, at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Nor was it the performance of Terps sophomore point guard Melo Trimble, who didn't miss a shot in a 17-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance against the Rams on his way to taking home Most Valuable Player honors from a Thanksgiving-week tournament for the second straight year.
It is what happened in the last two minutes of a game in which Maryland built a double-digit lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes, led by as many as 22 in the first half and by as many as 29 in the second half. And, even more dramatically, it is what occurred during the customary postgame handshake line between the teams.
Terps coach Mark Turgeon and Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley were both assessed technical fouls with a little less than two minutes remaining in the game after exchanging words on the sideline. Turgeon had to be restrained by Trimble after getting the technical. It got only worse.
As the postgame handshake line was breaking up, Turgeon and Hurley appeared to have a heated exchange. This time, members of Hurley's staff had to be pushed away by Turgeon's assistants and players near the Maryland bench at midcourt as tournament officials stood nearby waiting to begin the trophy presentation ceremony.
A tournament official, who gave an unauthorized interview to The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, said he was within earshot of the handshake line, and heard Hurley saying the same thing to each Terps player.
"He said: 'Good game, thanks for talking [expletive] on the court,'" said the official.
Longtime Maryland analyst Chris Knoche corroborated that statement on the team's postgame radio show. According to Knoche, Hurley had used words "I would not repeat" on air.
The Cancun Challenge released a statement Thursday, saying no tournament official had given an authorized interview and that none had heard or knew what Hurley allegedly said.
Turgeon said he never had witnessed anything like the late-game drama in all his years of coaching. Though he would not discuss the incident, he praised the Rams and said they were "well coached." Hurley declined to comment to The Sun about the incident but said the Terps were a national championship-caliber team.
"They're impressive, they have all the answers," Hurley said as he stood with athletic director Thorr Bjorn after the game. "Great point guard, dynamic shooting, the inside game, the depth. They're the best team I've seen, them and Kentucky. That's one of the most complete teams I've seen. Seems like they've got two of everything."
Hurley told the Providence Journal: "It was a championship game. We both wanted to win the game. There was some frustration on both sides, and that's that."
Though the game was not particularly chippy despite its 44 foul calls, Hurley's temper flared when Terps senior forward Jake Layman hit a 3-pointer with 1:43 remaining shortly after being reinserted into the game while Rhode Island was at the free-throw line.
Turgeon has made such late-game moves in the past with key players who have struggled, hoping to have their last memory be a positive one. Layman has shot poorly over the past few games, including a 2-for-6 showing from 3-point range against the Rams.
During a timeout immediately after Layman's shot, Turgeon decided to insert his walk-ons. One of them, freshman guard Andrew Terrell, scored his first career basket on a 25-footer with 33 seconds to go as the shot clock was about to expire, and Hurley fixed a prolonged icy stare at the Maryland bench.
Bjorn denied that Hurley said anything out of line to Maryland's players.
In a statement released early Thursday morning, Bjorn defended his coach, saying: "After extensive conversations with our head coach, staff and administrators who were on the floor for the postgame handshakes, and reviewing video of the final moments of the game — including both teams during the handshakes — I am 100-percent confident that neither Dan Hurley nor any member of our coaching staff made any 'derogatory expletive' remarks or offensive statements toward the Maryland players. Any report, rumor or allegation to the contrary is false."
The Providence Journal reported that it also reviewed footage of the end of the game without any sound, and that Hurley and his assistants went through the line without incident until Maryland head associate trainer Matt Charvat attempted to cut between Terrapin players Jake Layman and Robert Carter. Charvat prevented Layman from reaching Hurley, "and there were no further attempts at confrontation by players or staff members from either team."
Maryland senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who along with Trimble and Carter (15 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots) was named to the all-tournament team, called the postgame incident "unique, to say the least."
He added: "Nothing bad to say about Rhode Island. They're a heck of a team. They played well. They have great players. I'm just happy that we came out with a win and everybody was safe at the end."
As Hurley concluded an interview with The Sun that included high praise for both Trimble, whom he called "one of the best point guards in the country," and Sulaimon, whom he said gave the Terps "fire," the Rams coach said with a laugh that he hoped not to see Maryland again this season.