Even when it wins – or, more accurately, especially when it wins – the Maryland basketball team manages to remaining captivating to the final minutes.
A plethora of tension, however, means something is missing. In Wednesday’s 77-74 squeaker over Mount St. Mary’s, that something was defense.
The Terrapins yielded 11 3-pointers, blowing a 16-point lead in the process before surviving a scare from the struggling Mountaineers before 9,875 at Comcast Center.
“I’m not used to not guarding,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “This is all new to me. We’re not a bad team, but we’re not guarding. We guard and that game’s not close. We have to figure out a way as a coaching staff to teach these guys how to guard better. Otherwise, it’s not going to be much fun all winter.”
Terrell Stoglin scored 23 points for the Terps (5-3), who won consecutive games for the first time since February.
The victory wasn’t assured until the closing moments. With the Terps nursing a 73-72 lead, freshman Nick Faust blocked Julian Norfleet’s shot with 16 seconds remaining. Mychal Parker then corralled the rebounding off the ensuing putback and made two free throws to extend the edge to three.
The Mount’s Danny Thompson dunked with 2.3 seconds to go, but Maryland’s Sean Mosley made two free throws with a second remaining to seal the win.
It appeared for some time it would go down as one of the more miserable nights in Turgeon’s first season, regardless of how the rest of the season unfolds.
The Mountaineers (1-7) dismissed guard Lamar Trice from the program earlier in the day, leaving them without a player who won the Northeast Conference’s most improved player award a year ago. And even as the Terps scorched the Mount, the outside shot kept things closer than necessary.
On the verge of blowing out the Mountaineers before the break, Maryland surrendered a 3-pointer in the final minute. The meltdown, coupled with the Mount’s hot hand, had begun.
Maryland yielded (what else?) a 3-pointer to start the second half. Soon enough, the Mountaineers were within single digits. Then three. And then, on Kelvin Parker’s two foul shots, they capped a 15-1 run and took a two-point lead.
“I think they were pretty much hitting big shots all night,” forward Ashton Pankey said. “They were hot tonight from the 3-point line. I thought we did a pretty good job defending them, but their 3-point shots were falling.”
While Maryland’s defense failed, it wasn’t helped by a fading offense that went more than eight minutes without a field goal in the second half. Stoglin twice briefly went to the bench after the break, and the Terps were especially inert without him on the floor, shooting 0-for-3 while adding a turnover. But he also played for much of the drought as well.
“We just panicked,” Turgeon said. “We missed layups and missed shots.”
And yet there was progress elsewhere. Pankey, who played one minute in Sunday’s defeat of Notre Dame for what Turgeon called a “coach’s decision,” matched his career-high with 13 points. Faust, plagued by poor shooting early in his first season, had 13 points, played solid defense and made all six of his free throws.
Ultimately, it was a result that won’t hurt Maryland, which has time to improve with only two games over the next 20 days. Then again, Wednesday reinforced precisely where the greatest progress needs to come before the Terps delve into conference play.
“We give credit to them, but we still have a long way to work at the defensive areas,” forward James Padgett said. “We just have to get better at that.”