Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about the Terps win over Northwestern. (Don Markus/Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — Mark Turgeon’s patience with Dion Wiley was wearing as thin as the depleted Maryland roster that had led to the redshirt junior’s being recently made a starter when the Terps switched to a four-guard lineup against Purdue.
After three games and very little production from Wiley, particularly in Wednesday night’s loss at Penn State, the Maryland’s men's basketball coach had seen enough and knew he had to say something.
As the Terps were watching tape from the 74-70 loss in State College, Pa. the following day, Turgeon had a message for Wiley, who in 23 minutes had scored six points but had done little else.
“He had zero assists, zero turnovers, zero rebounds, I said, ‘At least turn the damn ball over, do something to get in the stat sheet, all right?’ ” Turgeon recalled after Saturday’s 73-57 home win over Northwestern.
“He was more aggressive today, and we need him. We need Dion to be like that. The poor kid’s been hurt since he’s been here, and hopefully this is the start of him and Ceko [Michal Cekovsky] finishing the year really strong for us.”
While Cekovsky showed the rust of missing the past three games because of a bruised heel — the 7-foot-1 Slovakian finished with four points and a blocked shot in his first game back — Wiley proved that he took Turgeon’s words to heart.
Wiley finished with 10 points in 26 minutes on 4-for-7 shooting (including 2-for-4 on 3-pointers) against the Wildcats. Wiley also tied his season high with five rebounds and his career high with four assists. He even got the turnover Turgeon had kind of requested.
For a player whose defense has been a liability, he was engaged on that end of the court in helping the Terps force the Wildcats into shooting 19-for-57 from the field and holding senior guard Bryant McIntosh scoreless for the first time in his career.
“Coach [Kevin] Broadus [an assistant] called him out [in] the locker room and said it was his best defensive game of the year,” said sophomore guard Kevin Huerter, who led Maryland with 22 points and five assists. “He was active, he was locked in. … Dion did really well defensively, which kept him in the game so he could keep his rhythm offensively and he started to make plays.”
Said sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, “I think in the two years I played with Dion, this is probably his best defensive game. It’s not like he’s been bad on defense, but he put a little more emphasis on it. He boxed out every time; he cut his man off. He did all the little things for us and obviously he did what he always does — make shots.”
Wiley, who has been known mostly as a streaky 3-point shooter, made tough drives in each half: a left-handed layup to get the Terps their first double-digit lead (19-8) of the game and later a slicing power drive in traffic to start an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to as many as 21 points in the second half.
Acknowledging that Turgeon was “pretty mad” during the film session, Wiley said he went into the game against Northwestern with a mindset from the one he has usually taken throughout his career.
"This morning I went to the game just thinking just rebound and defend, and I think it carried over to my offense,” Wiley said.
Having started four straight games after spending most of his career coming off the bench, Wiley said being a starter doesn't give him the luxury of seeing how the game develops and he has to prepare a little harder.
“That’s just personnel, watching film more before the game, being ready to play at all times,” he said.
What helps is that Wiley is also healthier than he’s been in a while.
After missing his sophomore year with a torn meniscus, and being limited because recurring back problems last season, Wiley had been hampered by ankle sprains this season, most recently in the first half of the Purdue game Jan. 31.
Even before the spate of injuries led to the Terps losing power forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender for the season, Turgeon had looked at Wiley’s contribution as being important for the team.
“I think it’s very important for the team. If I can get going, we’re a better team overall,” Wiley said. "I’m not the only one who says that. Coach Turgeon says that, all the [assistant] coaches say that, the team says it. Guys like Kevin [Huerter] always motivate me to attack the basket more, have a scorer’s mentality.”
Recalling the comment Turgeon made during the film session, Cowan believes it motivated Wiley.
“I think it might have lit a fire under Dion a little bit,” Cowan said. “We need him to play as hard as he can. We need him to play like he did today. Hopefully that gives him confidence going into the next game.”
NOTES: Maryland will try to get its third win in the past four games, and its first Big Ten road victory since the Terps beat Illinois in overtime in the league road opener Dec. 3, when Turgeon’s team plays at Nebraska on Tuesday night. Maryland has won both previous trips to Pinnacle Bank Arena, in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Cornhuskers have won five straight games and are 6-0 at home in the Big Ten this season.