February 21, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Rion Brown (15) and Trey McKinney Jones (4) defend against Maryland Terrapins guard Sean Mosley (14) at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
As the closing seconds ticked off in the waning moments of Maryland's 75-70 win over Miami, the camera for the ACC Network broadcast closed in on Mark Turgeon, emphatically fist-pumping (with both fists, which is evidently his thing) and hugging his assistant coaches with reckless abandon.
It was, without a doubt, the most energetic and most amped up we've seen Turgeon all year. Why? Well, perhaps because Maryland had finally done something they've struggled with mightily all year long: finish.
The Terrapins have seemed to be at their worst in the closing moments all year long. They've seen 20 point leads turn into 10 point leads, seen 10 point deficits turn into 20 point losses, and, worst of all, seen 5 point leads turn into 5 point deficits. Tonight, though, it was a very different story.
With a little over 1:30 remaining in the game, Maryland trailed by five, 66-61. They promptly went on a 10-0 run, with a gritty James Padgett and-one putback and five critical points from Sean Mosley, who had been otherwise quiet for the entire second half.
Maryland, instead of fading down the stretch, played their best ball when it mattered most. And they were rewarded with a hard-fought, much-needed win - perhaps their most energizing and, dare I say it, heartwarming of the season.
The first half was a game of runs, with Maryland starting out with a 13-3 lead. Miami responded with a switch to a zone defense, which stalled the Terrapins and opened up a chance for the Canes to get back in it. They did exactly that, eventually taking a 25-23 lead. In fact, that was part of a larger 14-1 Miami run, which would push their lead as large as eight. Maryland came back with a 7-0 spurt near the end of the half, closing the gap to 35-31 at half.
The first ten minutes of the second half were a back-and-forth affair, but Miami seemingly took control around the 9:07 mark, when they held a seven-point lead. Maryland's response? Holding the Hurricanes for an 8:50 stretch without a field goal. Maryland was pretty easily the better team the final nine or so minutes, but it would've been for nothing had they not closed out as well as they did.
The first big play came from Sean Mosley, who hit a huge three-pointer at 1:37 to begin Maryland's run. Ashton Pankey blocked DeQuan Jones' jumper on the next possession, with a rugby-esque scrum for the loose ball that the Terrapins crucially won. (Side note: that hustle and grittiness defined this win for Maryland, and it was so good to see.) Pankey would miss a bunny at the other end that would've tied the game, but James Padgett found the rebound and finished an and-one (hitting the free throw and all) that gave the Terrapins a one-point lead.
The Hurricanes turned to Durand Scott for their answer, which wasn't surprising as he'd been one of the best players on the floor all game. But Scott tried to get fancy with his dribble, and Nick Faust saw the loose handle and poked the ball out. (Fitting, as Chris Eckard pointed out on Twitter, given that Maryland honored Johnny Rhodes tonight.) Sean Mosley recovered, hit two free throws, and from then on out it was all smooth sailing.
What was so strange tonight, even more than Maryland finishing so strongly, was that they did it without huge production from Terrell Stoglin. He did finish with 20 points, but five of those points came from late second-half free throws; he was only 6-17 from the floor. It was so odd because the vast majority of those shots weren't the usual questionable Stoglin chucks; with perhaps one or two exceptions, they were good shots, usually open and in rhythm. But he really struggled to hit them.
This was Stoglin's third game in six days, and he averaged 32 minutes across all three. Perhaps he's starting to tire. The good news is that he seemed more dialed into the offense than ever, passing up multiple open looks to feed teammates. Even though Stoglin failed to score a bunch of points, I do think it was actually a relatively strong outing, especially given what Turgeon's looking for out of him.
Sean Mosley played a big role tonight, with scoring bursts at the beginning and end of the game - that three-pointer in particular was a huge shot, one that I hated when he put up but that he had the gumption to take and make. Sometimes you just need a player like that on the floor. It was a big play.
But I was actually a bit more impressed by Maryland's big men. It seems strange to say, because the Terrapins were largely manhandled by Miami's front line in the opening 25 to 30 minutes. But Maryland's bigs reasserted themselves in the second half in a big way, winning the second half rebounding battle 22-10. Alex Len scored eight points down the stretch with several big defensive plays and rebounds thrown in, looking as good as he has since the N.C. State game. Pankey, who's been the topic of a lot of discussion from Maryland fans, finished with 6 points and 7 boards, showing off some confidence he's been lacking earlier in the year.
And, of course, Inspector Padgett, who finished with 16 points on only eight shots, including the essentially game-winning and-on. Who would've expected Padgett to turn into an offensive option in the low post? It's not just putbacks anymore.
(And a quick shoutout to Faust, who wasn't as big offensively as he's been in the past but had the game-clinching steal and four assists.)
Maryland wasn't great tonight. The offense was often very hard to watch, especially because Stoglin struggled. But getting a win, especially one in which they finished so strong, against a potential NCAA tournament team when Stoglin isn't hitting?
No wonder Turgeon was so psyched. I am, too.