- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Maryland faced a sink-or-swim moment Tuesday night at Comcast Center.

The Terrapins stayed afloat — barely.

With coach Mark Turgeon insisting his team play through its struggles, the Terrapins nearly wasted a 23-point lead before surviving 70-62 against Cornell before 11,395 at Comcast Center.

“We like to make it interesting,” Turgeon said.

Maryland (10-3) won its seventh straight and enters the start of conference play without a befuddling loss, an achievement for a bunch that played without two starters until the last two weeks.

With a full complement of players (or what constitutes a full complement for the Terps), Turgeon has uncorked a few tactics as the Terps neared their ACC opener at N.C. State on Sunday. Playing time is doled out more stringently, the upshot of more competition for minutes.

Tuesday’s ploy was intriguing from a team-wide sense. Turgeon refused to call a timeout as Maryland’s lead winnowed from 15 points to single digits in the first four minutes of the second half.

“That was more trying to help them grow up,” Turgeon said. “I kept telling my coaches, ‘Even if it costs us the game, I’m not going to call timeout. They have to get themselves out of it.’”

It was a risk, to be sure. Cornell (4-9), so stifled in the game’s first 10 minutes as Maryland bolted to a 28-5 lead, grew more efficient as the game advanced.

Meanwhile, the Terps slacked after their sizzling start, continuing their turnover-prone ways while hoisting ill-advised shots as Turgeon glowered from the sideline during the meltdown.

“He just wanted us to work through it as a team and communicate,” guard Terrell Stoglin (14 points) said. “That was the main focus today: Communicate together and play together and we did that.”

The Terps eventually did, but not before the Big Red narrowed the gap to just one point on four occasions.

Turgeon eventually tossed his no-timeouts pledge with 13:47 to play, though his message was clear by then. At some point, his first Maryland team would have to learn some things the hard way.

Some of what the Terps needed to have reinforced was clear. They needed to get to the foul line and work inside. Both would have worked. Maryland barely did either until freshman Alex Len (15 points) produced a pair of traditional three-point plays in the middle of the half.

Maryland’s clinching shot, coincidentally, came out of a Turgeon timeout. Stoglin connected on a 3-pointer with 1:48 to play, bumping the Terps’ edge to 64-60.

Soon enough, Maryland escaped, having slipped through its last nonconference home game without a serious incident — but with an added experience thanks to a little stubbornness from Turgeon.

“He just said ‘I’m not going to call a timeout, they’re going to have to figure it out,’” guard Sean Mosley (19 points). “He wanted us to mature as young men and figure out things on their own. Sometimes, when things are going bad on the road, he can’t keep burning every timeout because some timeouts we’re going to need down the stretch in games when they’re close. We’re going to have to figure it out and grow up as a team.”

The time to do so has arrived for Maryland, a bunch picked ninth in the ACC in the preseason. The addition of Len and Pe’Shon Howard to the Terps’ rotation generated some hope Maryland could exceed expectations, but only if improvement continues.

That happens in practice.  And it can occur in games, especially when Turgeon foists an impromptu maturation opportunity on his team. It’ll need to happen in both if the Terps are to parlay their recent play into something more fulfilling later in the season.

“I never thought we were going to lose the game,” Turgeon said. “I want our guys to grow up. Right or wrong, that’s what I did. … Maybe we’re more caught up in the seven-game winning streak than where our team really is and where we need to be.”

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