COLLEGE PARK — With less than 100 seconds gone in the second half of Sunday’s game against Mount St. Mary’s at Xfinity Center, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon called timeout.
“I didn’t think we were ready. We made a bunch of mistakes,” Turgeon said after the game. “Box-outs, transitions, the way we guarded one of their [inbounds] plays, we screwed that all up. We weren’t dialed in.”
As the Terps came over to huddle, Turgeon stamped his left foot and voiced his displeasure. It wasn’t that Maryland was losing — Turgeon’s team was up 16 after leading at halftime by 18 — but he wasn't happy. His message got through for a while.
“I called timeout. I trust those guys,” Turgeon said. “That’s been our best lineup. Just got on them a little bit about concentrating and by the first [media] timeout, they had built it up to 22. We wanted to get it to 30 by the next timeout and it was 29. ... The guys responded there. That was good.”
A three-point play by freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) started an 11-2 run that eventually led to a 32-point lead for the Terps. But as happens with a young team, Maryland couldn’t keep its intensity and eventually settled for a 92-77 victory.
And, as happens with an old coach, Turgeon would like to see more.
“I was really pleased with a lot of phases with the game tonight,” Turgeon said. “I thought for the first 30 minutes we were really good, We were able to try a lot of different things. The only thing I’m disappointed by are the turnovers and the way we finished the game.
“Ten years ago I would have lost my mind, but the core guys were good and we were really good tonight. I don’t judge it on our opponent or what the score is, I judge it on my guys and my guys were good for the first 30 minutes.”
As it was, there was plenty for Turgeon to be pleased with as the Terps pushed their season record to 5-0. Much of it had to do with sophomore center Bruno Fernando.
Hampered by foul trouble in three of the first four games, especially in the first half of those games, Fernando stayed away from silly fouls to finish with 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots in 25 minutes.
“He’s playing at a better pace. He’s slowed down,” Turgeon said. “He was always in fifth gear last year. He would always run over people, start spinning when he caught it. Now he’s under control. He’s really worked at that. His hands have gotten better. He’s catching everything. And then he’s just recognizing situations better.”
Said Fernando: “For me, it’s like Coach said, getting out of the fifth gear. I’m a guy that once I get going, I’ll just go all the way, I think the key was just learning to slow down sometimes and let a game flow. That’s one thing I just focused on and just let the game come to me instead of trying to force anything or trying to go hard every time.”
The 6-foot-10 Angolan made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts to push his season’s total to 34 of 41 (82.9 percent). Fernando is not as impressed with that statistic as others.
“I just dunk. That’s a high-percentage shot,” said Fernando, who took only two shots more than 2 feet from the basket Sunday, making a 5-footer and missing his first 3-point try of the season and only fourth of his career. “Whenever you go up and dunk it, how am I going to miss that? It’s something I do every day at practice and shoot-around. That’s all it comes down to.”
Turgeon also had to be pleased to see freshman shooting guard Serrel Smith, who after starting his college career missing 11 of 12 on 3-pointers and 12 of 15 overall, scored scoring a season-high 13 points on 5-for-9 overall, including 3-for-6 on 3-pointers.
“He was good on both ends, too,” Turgeon said. “It was good for him. He hit the two 3s [in the first half]. He hit the back-door-cut layup. I thought he defended well, too. That’s important to stay on the floor, that he guards and we can trust him on the defensive end. Really good to see. Happy for him.”
And Turgeon had to be encouraged by the way Jalen Smith recovered from a sloppy start that forced Turgeon to sub in fellow freshman Ricky Lindo Jr. to wind up with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
“Jalen’s trying to please me, but he wasn’t ready to play,” Turgeon said of the 6-foot-10 Smith, who committed three early turnovers and forced two early shots wound up shooting 6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free-throw line. “Then after that he was pretty darn good.”
Fernando can relate to how mature a player Smith is already, based on his own development as a freshman last season.
“I think he’s just getting accustomed to the college game,” Fernando said. “It was a quick turn. We played on Friday night [against Hofstra] and then Saturday we came in here and watched film and shot a lot of free throws and a couple of guys worked out and then we had an early game today. … Things weren’t falling for him [early]. I’m glad he picked it back up and he got it done.”
First-year Mount St. Mary's coach Dan Engelstad also had to be pleased with the way the Mountaineers showed some resolve after falling behind 75-43 by closing the gap to the smallest margin of defeat in an 0-4 start to the season.
“This was great just because our energy was carried throughout,” said Engelstad, whose team had lost by 50 points to North Carolina State in its opener, then by 18 at Hofstra and by 23 at Marshall.
Engelstad said freshman guard Dee Barnes “was the message” in his team’s postgame locker room. After not getting into the first two games and playing just a minute against Marshall, Barnes finished with eight points in a little over nine minutes, all in the second half.
“He's a guy who hasn't gotten a chance, but he's kept going,” Engelstad said. “He hasn't gotten the playing time. He hasn't gotten the rewards that he's been looking for, but he got a chance today and he showcased it and that's what you need to do when you get an opportunity.”
Turgeon had his own message in his team's locker room. As happy as he was with his team’s 23 assists — one short of the season high — he wasn’t pleased with the season-high 18 turnovers or the way his team played defense the last 10 minutes. He has a few days before the Terps play Marshall, an NCAA tournament-game winner a year ago, on Friday.
“For such a new team, we’re doing a lot of good things,” Turgeon said. “We just haven’t been able to do it for 40 minutes yet. Competition steps up in our next game, so we have to play better for longer to be successful.”