- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2019

COLLEGE PARK — Mark Turgeon was livid, and he called an early timeout to let his team know it.

Against Harvard last Friday, the Maryland Terrapins had given away five turnovers and fallen behind seven points in the first four minutes. They turned things around and beat Harvard 80-73 in the second round of the Orlando Invitational, but afterwards, Turgeon’s mind was still stuck on the team’s poor start.

In his postgame radio interview with The Team 980, he called it the “most selfish I’ve ever had one of my teams play.” His focus was similar when it came time to speak to the assembled media.

QUIZ: Can you match the nickname to the NBA player?

“Disappointed in myself that I can’t get our team to play better at the start,” he said Friday. “I don’t know what it is. If I knew what it was, I would get it corrected. I do think we were really selfish today. For the first 15 minutes, no one would pass the ball, no one would swing the ball.”

Two days later, it was as if those concerns had disappeared. Maryland faced Marquette in the tournament’s title game and dominated Markus Howard — one of the best scorers in the country. Maryland had a 21-point lead by halftime en route to an 84-63 win, the Terrapins’ most impressive showing of the season.

Now ranked No. 3 in the country and still undefeated with Notre Dame coming to College Park on Wednesday, the Terrapins (8-0) may have solved their biggest stumbling block: weak starts.

When Turgeon called a timeout early in the Harvard game, it wasn’t the angriest that players had seen him this season — Anthony Cowan remembered that Turgeon broke a clipboard a few weeks ago — but the feisty huddle still had the impact the coach wanted it to have.

“He just told us that when we play selflessly, when we’re not selfish, that we’re the best team in the country, and that we’re unguardable when we play for each other,” Aaron Wiggins said. “That was one thing that he emphasized after that game. He just told us that, because we saw in the second half the run that we went on, and the way that we played and the way that we were able to get back into the game, and the way that we finished the game.”

The Terrapins pulled off a 12-2 run later in the half, but still trailed Harvard by four at the break. This came a day after they trailed Temple by five at halftime and three weeks after they struggled with Rhode Island in the first half. They put up 49 points in the second half to eke out a win.

If the supposed selfishness was connected to the slow starts, then Turgeon’s message carried over into the title game Sunday. While the offense clicked early, the defensive effort by Darryl Morsell and others to hold Howard to two first-half points stood out the most.

“Coach is definitely passionate, especially about us just playing as a team,” Cowan added. “Definitely after he got into us about that, I think it really turned around.”

Turgeon felt the team put together 35 good minutes out of 40 for the first time this year, not just 25.

“We’ve played seven or eight games. Hopefully we got about 32 more,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “I imagine we’ll have a few slow starts in those. Hopefully we’ll have more fast starts. The bottom line is that we play well the majority of the game … The game ebbs and flows. You just want to be playing better the majority of it.”

Was dominating Marquette just a fluke, or are the Terrapins’ first-half woes behind them? Maryland puts it to the test Wednesday against the Fighting Irish (6-1), a disciplined team that leads the nation with a 1.82 assist-to-turnover ratio and commits the second-fewest fouls per game (11.7). After that, Maryland opens Big Ten play by hosting Illinois Saturday and traveling to Penn State next Tuesday.

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