Terrell Stoglin bailed out Maryland a few times in the early stages of this season.
Wednesday provided a new twist: The Terrapins surviving and even thriving without their star guard.
Stoglin eventually made a crucial difference, scoring 20 points in Maryland’s 65-61 defeat of Florida International. Yet beyond the victory, the Terps played a significant swath of the second half without Stoglin and handled it well.
“That was great for us,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “Couldn’t have scripted it any better. It was great for Terrell to watch it. We were down six when he went out and up when he came back.”
Well, not quite. Stoglin departed after picking up his fourth foul with 13:08 to play and the scuffling Terps (6-3) down 46-40. By the time he returned almost six minutes later, the deficit was reduced to 52-50 (though Maryland did briefly take a one-point lead during his absence).
Stoglin isn’t a magnet for whistles; Wednesday was only the seventh time in 42 career games he collected four fouls. What he is, though, is the nexus of Maryland’s offense.
He effectively carried the Terps past Colorado last month, then made vital plays in the closing sequence against Notre Dame earlier this month. Those two games remain Maryland’s most high-profile victories, and the sophomore’s value was clear on both nights.
It was obvious Wednesday as well, though the Terps no doubt took some value from their performance while he was glued to the bench. Redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey scored five of his 13 points during that six-minute stretch as Maryland closed in on the Golden Panthers (3-7) after producing a miserable first half.
“Everybody knew they had to step up,” said Pankey, who missed much of the first half after taking a shot to the lip that required three stitches. “I knew I had to step up to the plate and felt like I had to be a second scorer out there. All five guys were out there playing hard while Terrell was out, and I think that was a big thing for our team.”
It wasn’t as if Maryland was wholly unprepared for Stoglin’s absence. The guard sprained an ankle a week earlier in the Terps’ last harrowing home escape, a three-point victory against Mount St. Mary’s. He didn’t practice two days last week, and wasn’t fully healthy when Maryland practiced Monday.
Stoglin was among the last players to come onto the court for warmups, ambling out rather than running or jogging. He still led Maryland in scoring at the break with eight points, though his foul issues were perhaps offset a bit by the Terps’ recent workouts without him.
“I believe so,” Stoglin said. “We prepared for them to go box-and-one and stuff like that in practice, so everybody knew their job and we did the job and we won.”
It wasn’t all about how the Terps endured six Stoglin-free minutes on offense. Once he returned, Florida International produced just two points over a littlef more than six minutes as Maryland gradually crept ahead.
“Today’s the first day I felt like we guarded the way we’re capable of guarding,” Turgeon said. “We’re not a great defensive team yet. We can be, but we really guarded out there. I felt comfortable we were going to get some stops and do the right things.”
In the final minutes, Maryland turned to Stoglin, as it often and wisely does. He drove to give the Terps their first two-possession lead of the night. He made a pair of free throws with 11.7 seconds left to bump Maryland back to a four-point edge.
But other things —- be it Pankey’s all-around play, a turnover-free second half from Nick Faust or 24 quality minutes from senior center Berend Weijs —- ensured the Terps rallied from what was at one stage an 11-point deficit.
Stoglin wound up leading Maryland in scoring. Yet the lasting impression of the night might be the Terps’ payoff of surviving without their star during a significant stretch.
“Offensively, you never think you’re where you need to be with him out, but when he went out with four, I still thought we would win the game,” Turgeon said. “It never occurred to me we wouldn’t win the game. I’m just really proud of the guys. We’re going to learn from it. They know they can win without him and he knows they can win without him, too, in certain games.”
—- Patrick Stevens