BLACKSBURG, VA. — Mark Turgeon is no bracketologist. The Maryland basketball coach keeps himself sheltered in a Rating Percentage Index-free zone.
But while Turgeon has neither the time nor the inclination to regularly assess his team's chances of making the NCAA tournament, he knew enough about the calendar Thursday night to understand that time was growing short for the Terps to begin recording some all-important conference road wins.
After losing their first four Atlantic Coast Conference road games, the Terps broke through against Virginia Tech, beating the Hokies, 60-55, in front of an announced 5,465 at Cassell Coliseum.
With the win, the Terps (17-6, 5-5 ACC) completed a sweep of the Hokies and improved to .500 in the conference.
“It feels like we hadn't one of these in forever,” said Maryland's Dez Wells. Although the Terps hadn't won a conference road game, they did win at Northwestern in November.
Jake Layman led the Terps with 14 points. Erick Green led the Hokies with 29 points.
“It's big – especially the way we had to do it. The crowd was into it,” Turgeon said.
The coach said he called out his players after a first half in which the Terps had 10 turnovers and surrendered 10 offensive rebounds.
“I said (at halftime) I need men, not pouters,” Turgeon said. He said the teams that make the NCAA tournament “have men that are going to be in it.”
Among those admittedly pouting in the first half was Wells, the sophomore transfer.
“I was letting things get to me — turnovers and stuff,” said Wells, who finished with eight points and nine rebounds but also had four of Maryland's 15 turnovers.
Maryland led 54-49 on Logan Aronhalt's 3-pointer with 4:44 left.
But, led by Green, the Hokies came back. Green's jumper cut the margin to 54-53 with 1:28 left.
Maryland center Alex Len's two free throws raised the lead to 56-53 with 58.4 seconds left.
Virginia Tech's last stand came after Green's two free throws again cut Maryland's advantage to three points — 58-55 — with 9:6 seconds left.
Maryland sealed the win with free throws.
Among Turgeon's goals this season was for the Terps to assert themselves on the road. Last season, Maryland was 1-7 in ACC away games, with the lone win (against Clemson) coming exactly one year ago Thursday night.
Maryland's strategy was to use multiple players at different times to try to contain Green, the ACC's leading scorer.
Green scored 28 points in the team's first meeting — a 94-71 Maryland win. He got to the free-throw line 11 times, converting 10.
“We held Green to 29 (on Thursday night),” Turgeon said, smiling.
On Thursday night, Maryland used Nick Faust (City), Dez Wells, Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen to guard Green, who still almost won the game for the Hokies.
The Terps were coming off a victory over Wake Forest in which they shot 67.3percent. But Turgeon said earlier this week that Maryland, which is prone to scoring droughts, was likely to play “another 56-54 [kind of ] game. Maybe a couple of them.”
For the second straight game, Maryland started what Turgeon refers to as his “older” lineup — one senior (James Padgett) joining three sophomores and one freshman.
The Terps led by as many as 11 points in the first half, hitting from outside against Virginia Tech's zone.
But the Terps, who seemed to rush their shots, cooled off. After making his first three shots, Layman missed his next four.
The Hokies tied the game at 22 on Green's free throws and took their first lead, 27-24, on Green's 3-pointer.
Maryland's woes were reflected in a shot-clock violation in the first half's final moments. Turgeon, who was in a crouch near the bench, lowered his head to the floor.
He walked off the court shaking his head at the end of the half.