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Maryland basketball had another slow start and strong finish against Charlotte

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Does it matter? We don’t know yet!

NCAA Basketball: Charlotte at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball’s 88-72 win over Charlotte on Tuesday night was familiar, and not just because the Terps won in Baltimore for the second straight year.

Maryland trailed its lesser-esteemed opponent by as many as 10 points in the first half, and couldn’t narrow the deficit until right before halftime. But narrow it the Terps did, and they were able to run away with the win in the second half. This story could have been written about half-a-dozen other Maryland games this season, if not more.

Charlotte stayed in the game by forcing 13 turnovers in the first half. This severely limited Maryland’s scoring potential. The Terps didn’t have many chances in the first half, and when they did, they weren’t good at converting. They finished 10-of-25 from the field in the opening frame.

“They did some things a little bit different with their zone, and we were just kind of standing around and didn’t have any rhythm,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told reporters after the game. “The turnovers were disappointing. The no-look passes, throwing it to guys who weren’t there, that was disappointing.”

Some unexpected wrinkles in Charlotte’s defense helped the 49ers stave off the inevitable. They went into halftime with a one-point lead, which is further than some other teams have made it against the Terps.

“We wanted to mix up our defenses a little bit, try keep them off-balance, play some little man, so little zone,” Charlotte coach Mark Price said. “I thought it worked pretty well in the first half. I felt like we did keep them off-balance a little bit, but they made some adjustments.”

Those adjustments included limiting turnovers (they only had 6 in the second half) and second-chance points. They also included making the open shots Maryland missed early on.

“Their firepower just caught up to us in the second half,” Price said.

After going 1-for-9 from three-point range to open the game, the Terps caught fire in the second half. They shot 10-of-16 in the final 20 minutes. Kevin Huerter had all 10 of his points in the second half, hitting consecutive threes to give his team a 56-49 lead with 13 minutes left.

The team’s inside-out strategy, which Turgeon says he’s been focusing on more lately, started working. That, and the team took and made open shots it didn’t in the first half. Fans have heard that before. It’s the same story.

“We try not to pass around the perimeter,” Huerter said. “We try to get a foul-line or post touch every possession. I think we started to do that, we started to play better and we started to hit shots.”

Maryland stats vs. Charlotte

Stat FG% 3P% Turnovers Assists
Stat FG% 3P% Turnovers Assists
1st half: 40% 11% 13 4
2nd half: 57% 63% 8 12

Melo Trimble agreed that this game was indeed similar to what he’s experienced throughout the season.

“We’ve been through this all year, being down at the beginning of the game,” he said. “It’s mostly because of how we approach games, and once we went into halftime, coach Turgeon gave us an earful.”

Point guard Anthony Cowan helped the Terps charge ahead, and Turgeon singled him out after the game without being asked to.

“In the second half we were much better,” Turgeon said. “I thought Anthony was terrific defensively. I thought he was great pushing the ball. We got to the foul line, which was big. We got second-chance points, which was big.”

“We got stops, got rebounds and made shots,” Trimble echoed.

Turgeon could have been displeased after a win like this. He didn’t appear to be on Tuesday night.

“I’m proud of our team,” Turgeon said. “I’m proud of 12-1. We’ve only had one game all year where we were healthy.”

The team was without Damonte Dodd and Dion Wiley, both of whom are injured. The one game Turgeon is referring to is the Terps’ one-point win over Kansas State. Both of those players should be back soon, not that they’ll solve this team’s problems remotely by themselves.

“I didn’t expect us to be great at the start of this game,” Turgeon said. “We had a lot of things going on this week, from Damonte’s injury and Dion got hurt, and a couple guys got the stomach flu this week. We never got into rhythm, and it showed tonight. We weren’t very good early in the game.

“We finished the half the right way and played an excellent second half, under the circumstances.”

Maryland won’t be able to count on that against teams like No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 15 Purdue and No. 16 Indiana. But this team still has some time to figure this out. Not all that much, but some.