The Washington Times - January 12, 2012, 12:02AM

Maryland played perhaps its best 20 minutes of the season Wednesday.

It maintained a 16-point lead over Wake Forest at the break.


It appeared headed for a rout in its ACC home opener.

But this is Maryland, and that just isn’t going to happen.

“We’ve seen that recipe before where we play well in the first half,” coach Mark Turgeon said.

The Terrapins showed quite a bit of who they are against the Demon Deacons, arriving at a well-earned 70-64 victory in both a seemingly unnecessary and thoroughly predictable manner.

The comfortable margin eroded in the second half, just like so many others. It didn’t disappear altogether. It didn’t shrink to a single point. It didn’t even come to the juncture of permitting an opponent to have the ball with the chance to tie.

The reality of the Terps (11-4, 1-1 ACC) is nothing will come without some anxiety, no matter the conditions. Not when Terrell Stoglin scores 20 points off the bench, or both James Padgett and Ashton Pankey play well, or when Sean Mosley gets off to a scorching start.

The easy button simply doesn’t exist. After all, the Terps don’t seem to do full games even when they look their sharpest in stretches.

“They’ve watched a lot of tape on us, so they know they can come back if they just do what they’re supposed to do,” Turgeon said during his postgame radio interview.

Of course, Maryland hardly cared a bit Wednesday.

The Terps were happy to savor their first conference victory under Turgeon despite a choppy, rocky, foul-plagued second half. And really, who could blame them?

If there’s anything Maryland should be used to by now, it is second-half slides that don’t quite derail a shot at victory. In four losses, the Terps have squandered a lead of more than five points only once.

Perhaps that’s the best reason Maryland simply shrugged when the Demon Deacons (10-6, 1-1) closed within 50-47.

“We got a little bit discouraged, but nobody put their heads down,” Padgett said. “I think that’s why coach said we lost the lead again, but we didn’t do it as bad. We got a lot better at trying to keep a lead and pulled out the win.”

No, it wasn’t as bad as nearly wasting a 23-point lead eight days earlier against Cornell. In been-there, done-that fashion, the Terps just maintained a two- or three-possession the lead the rest of the way.

That wasn’t just fine; it was progress. The closing minutes weren’t especially harrowing. Padgett hit free throws. Alex Len collected a crucial offensive rebound to extend a long possession against the foul-addled Deacons.

The Terps haven’t quite deciphered the right path to take to arrive at end-game situations, to the extent it simply isn’t a surprise when things grow incrementally more intriguing and harrowing as second halves progress.

It doesn’t make for an especially comfortable work life for Turgeon. At 11-4, all square in the conference and gradually improving at both ends of the floor, it’s just another bit of progress for a team always seeking some improvement.

“It was no fun going through that,” Turgeon said. “We’d like to win one [by] 16, 18, 20, but that’s not who we are right now. Who we are is a team that beat a good team by six points with good players on our home floor.”

For the Terps, it’s a recipe working just enough to keep things interesting a little deeper into the season.

—- Patrick Stevens