- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A coach’s first year on the job means finding out something new about his situation nearly every day.

Maybe it’s meeting a helpful person or encountering a bureaucratic idiosyncrasy for the first time. Something’s always lurking.

Mark Turgeon still is learning as his debut season at Maryland moves closer to its conclusion. What he found out this week only figures to make his life immeasurably easier going forward.

Turgeon faced a true crossroads after Saturday’s lackluster second half at Virginia, perhaps unlike any pivotal moment since the season tipped more than three months ago.

Sure, Maryland looked bad in its November trip to Puerto Rico, but the freshness of a new coach all but ensured there wouldn’t be a season-long daze. The short-handed Terrapins dodged potentially puzzling losses in December, always surviving to earn wins it was assumed they would collect.

Some of the conference stumbles stung more than others, but none portended potential disaster. The drubbing in Charlottesville did.

The starting point guard (Pe’Shon Howard) was gone for the year. The program’s ultimate postseason hopes were reduced to winning four games next month in the ACC tournament in Atlanta.

The Terps looked more uninterested than unable, with the former issue far more harrowing than the latter. With just three weeks left in the regular season, there was a chance things could unravel.

After Tuesday, Howard still was shelved. Maryland’s overall profile is only modestly better. But a single shot — Sean Mosley’s step-back 3-pointer out of a disintegrating play — helped the Terps (16-11, 6-7 ACC) surge past Miami 75-70.

“Everyone around here thinks we’re just going to roll over and quit, and you guys showed me today you’re not,” Turgeon told his team.

And that was just based on Monday’s practice — before the Terrapins won and damaged the Hurricanes’ postseason prospects in the process.

It also was a reminder games aren’t just won in a two-hour stretch, but rather over a couple of days. Granted, these were potentially stressful days after the misery of the previous weekend.

But Turgeon convinced Terrell Stoglin to share and play nice with his teammates, something the sophomore guard isn’t always inclined to do. He saw freshman guard Nick Faust reset his defense after a shoddy game at Virginia.

And he cajoled production out of his erratic frontcourt rotation, with James Padgett matching a career-high with 16 points, Ashton Pankey providing quality minutes and Alex Len making an offensive impact in the second half.

“We got a lot better today,” Padgett said.

And so suddenly things aren’t so bleak. There is life in College Park, and a date with last-place Georgia Tech (9-18, 2-11) looming Saturday in Atlanta.

Instead of a freefall, Maryland still can dream of an improbable .500 mark in conference play, spoiling a few more nights and perhaps nudging itself into a postseason tournament next month.

If any of those are achieved, it can look back to Mosley’s 3-pointer closing the Terps to 66-64, igniting a 14-2 run perhaps capable of invigorating a team still providing fresh experiences to its coach.

“I hope so,” Turgeon said. “It galvanized me.”

That’s a good thing. After all, Turgeon’s first season isn’t over. It would only be appropriate if something unexpected awaited Maryland in its closing kick.

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