Mark Turgeon offered a consistent mantra throughout the first two months of his debut season as the Maryland men's basketball coach: The Terrapins had a long way to go on defense.
They took a big step Sunday, largely out of necessity.
Maryland stymied Georgia Tech 61-50 before 11,776 at Comcast Center, a nearly beginning-to-end defensive performance that more than offset often-erratic work at the other end.
"We had to," guard Sean Mosley said. "The way we played in the first half, we had to get stops. If we didn't get stops, the game probably would have been over in the first couple minutes."
Mosley scored 18 points for Maryland (12-4, 2-1 ACC), while both James Padgett and Terrell Stoglin had 14 points.
Despite those contributions, the Terps' path to victory was paved at the other end of the floor. The Yellow Jackets (8-9, 1-2) were held to a meager 0.76 points per possession, and their 50 points represented the lowest output allowed by Maryland this season.
Most impressive was the work on Georgia Tech's Glen Rice Jr., who was held to just six points after consecutive 20-point outings to open conference play. With Mosley, Nick Faust and Mychal Parker marking Rice, the junior did not make a 3-pointer all day.
Maryland didn't manage much offense either, and its 24-19 lead at the break meant maintaining a defensive presence was a requirement to avoid frittering away another second-half lead.
"We weren't scoring, but each game we're starting to mature because at the beginning of the season, if we weren't scoring the basketball, we didn't take opportunities to get stops on defense because we used to let the offense affect the defensive end of the court," Mosley said. "I think today every guy stepped up. It was a team win, and I'm proud to be 2-1 right now."
As well he should, since the Terps have won two of their first three ACC games for only the second time in nine seasons.
They can thank Mosley for finishing off the Yellow Jackets. The senior bunched all but two of his points into the second half as the Terps gradually sealed the victory.
It was Mosley who drilled a 3-pointer to quickly respond to the only time Georgia Tech inched within a possession in the second half, and he remained a steady presence the rest of the way.
He was most needed after the Yellow Jackets narrowed the deficit to 54-50. With the shot clock nearing its expiration, Mosley connected on a 3-pointer with 2:36 to play to effectively finish off the victory.
"I think everybody on the bench knew that was going in, just the way he was playing," Turgeon said. "He's made some big shots for us."
Mosley would account for the rest of the scoring as well, though the Terps' defense was just as vital in finishing what it started. Georgia Tech didn't score in its final six possessions, finding few open looks along the way.
Turgeon was reluctant to anoint it the best defensive work of the season, though the improvement was obvious. The Terps, an erratic defensive team early in the season, excelled on both individuals (six of the Yellow Jackets' top seven scorers on the season were held below their averages) and as a collective group (16 forced turnovers).
Was it necessary? Sure. Was it progress? Undoubtedly, at least in one important area.
"We're definitely taking more pride and that shows," Turgeon said. "Hopefully, we can get a little better on the other end as we go forward."
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