SPOKANE, WASH. — Mark Turgeon has often talked in the past about what happened to future Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams and Maryland six years ago in Spokane. What has gone virtually ignored is what also happened to Turgeon and his team at Texas A&M.
It was shortly after the fourth-seeded Terps lost, 85-83, to No. 5 seed Michigan State on a last-second, 3-point shot by Korie Lucious in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The defeat prevented the Terps from getting to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Turgeon recalled how Williams walked into the wrong dressing room — where Turgeon was waiting for the Aggies to return from their pregame warmups before tipping off against Purdue — and quickly reversed course before walking out.
"Our locker room was right next to his locker room and he walked in here just to get away," Turgeon said Saturday, on the eve of a second-round game between No. 5 seed Maryland (26-8) and 13th-seeded Hawaii (28-5) at Spokane Arena. "I tried to act like I didn't see him. He was looking for somewhere to get his thoughts together."
Affiliated with his alma mater as an athletic administrator and fundraiser since his retirement in 2011, Williams opted to remain in Maryland this week rather than be in the department's traveling party back to Spokane.
On a local radio show in Washington earlier in the week, Williams said there were too many "bad memories" from a game that he has often called one of the most difficult defeats of his 22-year coaching career in College Park.
Truth to be told, Turgeon's memories of that day are hard to forget, too.
After handling Utah State rather easily in the opening round, the fifth-seeded Aggies built an 11-point lead early in the second half against fourth-seeded Purdue and then — as Turgeon's current team nearly did in Friday's 79-74 win over South Dakota State — let it slip away.
The Boilermakers wound up winning, 63-61 in overtime, on a driving layup by Purdue's Chris Kramer with six seconds to go. Texas A&M's B.J. Holmes missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"It was one of the worst [losses of my career]," Turgeon said Saturday. "We were going to Houston to play Duke. We were going home. I loved my team, too. I loved my seniors. That was hard."
Unlike this year's Maryland team, the Aggies started that season off the radar and unranked. Texas A&M finished 24-10 overall and 11-5 the Big 12, four games behind Kansas.
Maryland assistant Dustin Clark, a former student manager for Turgeon at Texas A&M who was the team's video coordinator that year, said the loss to the Boilermakers "was probably the toughest in my 10 years working for coach."
"We had had a great season, to play in the Sweet 16 90 miles from our campus ..." Clark said Saturday. "We had a bunch of seniors. It was a special team that you felt would have meant a longer run."
The defeat denied Turgeon a second chance at the Sweet 16. It would have marked the eighth time that Maryland advanced to at least the Sweet 16 under Williams.
Turgeon's first and only appearance in the NCAA tournament's second weekend came in 2006, when he took Wichita State to the Verizon Center in Washington. The seventh-seeded Shockers lost to 11th-seeded George Mason, which upset top seed Connecticut to reach the Final Four.
Turgeon's team has been favored in both of its games in this year's tournament.
The Terps were nearly 10-point favorites Friday and built an 18-point second-half lead over South Dakota State before unraveling, losing all but two points of the lead and point guard Melo Trimble to fouls with a little over a minute left before holding on.
Asked Saturday what his team's best victory of the season had been, Turgeon didn't hesitate.
"South Dakota State, without question," Turgeon said. "Because the magnitude of it. Advancing in the NCAA tournament. Beat a good team."
On Sunday, Maryland will be a three to 3 1/2-point favorite over the Rainbow Warriors, who upset No. 4 seed California, 77-66, in their opening game Friday.
Unlike a year ago, when a few players now concede they might have been looking toward a potential Sweet 16 matchup with top-ranked Kentucky even before stepping on the court in Columbus, Ohio, for a Round of 32 game against fifth-seed West Virginia, the Terps are focused only on Hawaii.
"You just focus on each team. Hawaii's a good team," Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. said Saturday. "They have 28 wins on the season. You've got to be a great team to have 28 wins. If you're not locked into just Hawaii and think about other teams, I think that's how you lose basketball games."