- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2012

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Maryland couldn’t bring a victory back to its locker room for Mark Turgeon to savor Wednesday night at Miami.

It might have returned with the next best thing — a belief it can withstand difficult times entering a stretch run certain to pose plenty of challenges.

The Terrapins’ 90-86 double-overtime setback featured Turgeon’s ejection with 7:28 left in regulation and Maryland’s subsequent comeback from a 16-point deficit to prompt overtime.

“It’s something to build on — just continue talking to the team tell them to play together,” guard Terrell Stoglin said. “If we continue to play together, we can come back. It doesn’t matter. We did it without our head coach, too. It showed that five guys on the court, we can come back no matter what.”

The Terps (13-8, 3-4 ACC), who play host to No. 5 North Carolina (19-3, 6-1) on Saturday, found themselves down their coach after guard Nick Faust was called for an offensive foul after colliding with Miami’s Rion Brown after a steal.

Turgeon was incensed, and official Brian Dorsey quickly replied with a pair of technical fouls — Turgeon’s first of the season. The first-year coach returned to the locker room and listened to the rest of the game on radio while receiving texts and phone calls from his wife and friends.

Turgeon, who last received a technical foul Feb. 19 while he was still at Texas A&M, insisted he was not trying to get ejected. At the end of his brief postgame remarks, Turgeon was asked if the second technical seemed to come quickly. “And the first one,” he replied.

Whatever his feelings, Turgeon clearly galvanized a team starting a brutal final third of the regular season. Maryland still must play North Carolina and Virginia twice, as well as Duke and Miami again once each in the last nine games before the ACC tournament.

With Maryland improving overall — though maybe not fast enough to keep pace with the conference pacesetters — but slogging its way to another road loss, perhaps there was some calculation in Turgeon’s early exit.

“You never want the head coach to get thrown out of a game,” said Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli, who took over after Turgeon’s departure. “It happens, and I think coach Turgeon did it for great purpose, to be quite honest with you. It wasn’t done because he’s a hothead or anything. He did it to get his team fired up, and he left it with us assistant coaches to get our guys rallied, and they rallied for their head coach.”

It was the first time Maryland’s head coach was ejected since Gary Williams was tossed early in an 89-59 loss at Duke on Jan. 29, 1998. But unlike that game, when Williams departed less than six minutes into what already was a full-fledged rout, the Terps were far from finished Wednesday.

(There was one curious similarity between the ejections. Williams was sent to the rickety visitors’ locker room at Cameron Indoor Stadium less than a week after the ACC sent schools a letter about unacceptable behavior on the bench and the court. Turgeon’s night ended prematurely only a week after the NCAA coordinator of officials issued a memo stressing the need to enforce the section of the rulebook pertaining to technical fouls issued for unsportsmanlike conduct.)

For all of Maryland’s miseries in Miami, where it is 0-6 since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004-05, this loss might prove useful over time. The 62-46 deficit the Terps erased was the largest hole they climbed out of all season, and they also played better in the second half on the road after late fades at Florida State and Temple.

And perhaps most interesting, Turgeon took a stand for his players, and they responded with arguably their most riveting play of the year and the gumption Turgeon has sought throughout his first season in College Park.

“I think he was trying to send a message to our guys that he’s a fighter,” said Spinelli, who is in his sixth year as a member of Turgeon’s staff. “He’s very passionate about his players.”

The feeling, it would seem, is mutual.

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