With 10:44 left in Maryland men’s basketball’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinal contest against Michigan, a seemingly innocuous play turned Lucas Oil Stadium upside down.
A three-point attempt from Aaron Wiggins fell off the rim and right into the middle of Galin Smith and Hunter Dickinson, with the loose ball eventually being deflected out of bounds.
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard was sure that the ball had come off of Smith, but the official signaled Maryland possession, prompting Howard to fire down the sideline to let referees know of his difference in opinion as the game went into a media timeout.
As Howard continued to make his way down the sidelines, coming within feet of the Maryland coaching box while waving his hands angrily in the direction of the officials, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon objected, appearing to tell Howard to return to his own box. Turgeon then furiously approached Howard, causing the 6-foot-9 former NBA Champion to step toward Turgeon in response.
The two continued to exchange words as tempers flared, with the Michigan coaching staff forcibly holding back Howard as the officials tried to regain control of the court.
Howard was assessed a double-technical and was thrown out of the game, while Turgeon received a technical of his own for his role in the scrap.
Here is the full sequence that led to Michigan head coach Juwan Howard being ejected during the last media timeout. pic.twitter.com/iN5H6ea6bc— Wes Brown (@W_Brown21) March 12, 2021
The near-brawl set social media ablaze as Howard was forced to be escorted off the floor, sparking speculation as to what could have been exchanged between the two coaches before tempers boiled over.
“I just stood there said ‘Don’t talk to me’ that’s it,” Turgeon clarified after the game.
Howard soon after offered his own side of the story.
“He said to me ‘Juwan I’m not gonna let you talk to me, you don’t talk to me ever again’ and he charged at me,” Howard said. “...I was raised by my grandmother and also by Chicago. When guys charge you, it’s time to defend yourself.”
Friday’s dustup was not an isolated incident, but rather a culmination of bad blood brewing between these two programs over the past several months.
“This has been going on for three games,” Turgeon said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years. I’ve called the conference office, I’ve called the commissioner about what transpired in the first two games. And I said I wasn’t gonna take it in the third game, and so I stood up for my team, I stood up for me.”
The first gesture that set off this eventual beef between the Big Ten foes came all the way back in December in the first meeting of the two teams.
On New Year’s Eve at Xfinity Center, Michigan center Hunter Dickinson took to the floor with the intention of proving a point.
Dickinson, a five-star recruit out of DeMatha Catholic three miles down the road, went out of his way to try to show up the Terps and their coaching staff on their home floor for allegedly not recruiting him out of high school. The Terps took an interest in Dickinson and offered him a scholarship in 2018, with the center himself stating that he had taken a visit with the team during his sophomore season.
However, as Dickinson began looking elsewhere, so did the Terps, with the talented center eventually committing to Michigan on Dec. 23, 2019.
The 7-foot-2 big man owned the paint from the game’s opening tip, finishing again and again at the rim and staring down Turgeon after each time he scored, eventually receiving a technical from the official for his antics. Dickinson went on to score 26 points in the decisive 84-73 victory for Michigan, but the chatter didn’t end after the final horn.
“I just think hopefully I showed that the guys down the road on Madison Street are pretty good, and they should go down there some time,” Dickinson said after the game. Turgeon didn’t address the incident, choosing to take the high road and just say it was an “emotional game” when asked about the technical.
Senior guard Darryl Morsell also fractured bone in his face after catching an inadvertent elbow from Wolverine guard Franz Wagner on a rebound. Morsell had to be taken to a trauma center in Baltimore for surgery, was sidelined for a game and then had had to wear a face mask for the next several contests.
The second matchup was even more lopsided than the first, with the Wolverines delivering a devastating offensive display in a 87-63 blowout win in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
But the third meeting between the teams presented the Terps with an opportunity to get one back against its increasingly animus foe.
The Terps led for the better part of the first half of Friday’s tilt, holding a 12-point advantage over the Wolverines. But they were soon met with a swift response from the top team in the conference this season, trailing by 10 by the time Turgeon and Howard began to go at it in the second half.
But regardless of what the scoreboard read, Turgeon was going to stick up for his players no matter what.
“Throughout my years here, Coach Turgeon has always fought for us,” junior guard Eric Ayala said. “It’s just two coaches competing at the end of the day, you know, they both want their teams to win ... As a player it makes it fun for me to see my coach fired up like that, it makes me want to go out there and compete”
What the next chapter of this ongoing saga will entail remains to be seen, with the potential for a fourth meeting this season in the NCAA Tournament likely not being in the cards. But for as long as Turgeon and Howard are lined up against one another in the Big Ten, the events from March 12, 2021 will always be in the back of their minds.