By Chris KnocheCSNwashington.com Contributor
The Mark Turgeon era officially began tonight at the Comcast Center. History will show that it was a lot like you would expect with a first year coach teaching a team filled with newcomers and walk-ons. It was ragged and captivating at the same time. It was a game played with great effort and energy even though often times- there were no results to show for that effort.
In the end it marked the first win in the Turgeon era against a University of North Carolina Wilmington team that battled for two full halves against the Terps.
In the end Maryland earned a hard-fought, well-earned 71-62 win in front of 12,873 at Comcast.
They were led by sophomore point guard Terrell Stoglin with 22 points and the interior tandem of junior James Padgett (12 points, 7 rebounds) and redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey (13 points and 8 rebounds).
In the early going it appeared the first team to 50 might win. Both started the game stone cold and frittered away countless opportunities.
After nine minutes of play the score was deadlocked at 11 apiece and each team had committed five turnovers. The Terps did not make a shot other than a layup until the last five minutes of the first half. UNC-W did not fare much better early on and appeared to have multiple opportunities to score in the first half in transition and did not do so.
At that point each team seemed to break out of what was ailing them. With Padgett finding creases for offensive put-backs against the Seahawk zone and Stoglin forcing the issue, points began to come easier for the home team. Eventually the seized a lead at 21-15 and seemed to be in a rhythm. The problem is that the rhythm applied exclusively to the offensive end.
It was at that point that Seahawk freshman guard Adam Smith began to do his best Ray Allen impression. The West Virginia native went nuclear in the last seven minutes of the first half, nailing four three pointers and single-handedly keeping his team in the game. He had 16 points at the break and kept his team in the game against a Maryland team that had dominated the interior and successfully attacked the basket for much of the last ten minutes of the first half.
The Terps led 32-27 at halftime and one could only imagine what was going on in each locker room during the break. Both coaches probably talked to their teams about the need to handle the ball better and the need to take advantage of the opportunities that result from those turnovers.
In the second half the Terrapins wasted no time taking control.
Led by the active Padgett inside and Stoglin outside, Maryland jumped to a 40-31 lead by the first media timeout and grew the lead to 14 at one point before the second media timeout.
Eventually the lead oscillated between 12 and 8 for much of the last ten minutes before Wilmington made it interesting down the stretch of the game. They closed to six on multiple occasions but never cut it inside that number and never made it a one possession game. A Maryland team that struggled throughout the game from the free throw line eventually used that same stripe to close out Maryland and earn their first win on the season.
As for the positives and negatives
On the positive side, the Terps successfully cut down on the turnovers that plagued them in their exhibition game. This same group committed 23 turnovers last weekend against NAIA Northwood yet they only had 13 tonight (just four in the second half). Given this teams minute margin for error this year, progress in that area is critical.
The Terps also got some really impressive play inside from Pankey and Padgett. To think that Pankey can play at this level after essentially being out of the game for two full seasons is remarkable. Padgett put together two very good halves and seems to have a much better feel for the game than he has exhibited in his first two seasons.
What to make of the enigmatic Stoglin is up open for conjecture.
He did not start this game and neither he nor Turgeon felt compelled to discuss the reason for that after the game. That said, he did enter the game in the first three minutes (17:13 mark, to be exact) and appeared to play with far more effort on the defensive end than Maryland fans have ever seen.
Oh and, by the way, the kid can pretty much score on anybody.
On the negative side, the wing play was spotty. Freshman Nick Faust enjoyed a huge game in the exhibition against Northwood last week and appears to have a huge future in front of him. Yet tonight he never seemed to be in the flow offensively. He still contributed in many ways and ended the game with 6 rebounds and 3 steals to go along with his 7 points. The problem was that he was only 1-4 from the field and 5-9 from the line. While he also had three steals from identical spots on the wing defensively, none of those steals were ever turned into points.
While Im willing to bet on Fausts upside, I am just as willing to bet that some of his offensive struggles will be a part of team film study the next few days.
Senior Sean Mosley also had his struggles offensively but had three monstrous blocks on defense and each seemed to save a Seahawk opportunity in transition.
Maryland now heads to the Five Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-off. Up first is Top 25 Alabama followed by a solid field that will test a young team in terms of talent and depth.
The Terps showed an intriguing combination of effort and industry on their way to their first win. As the stakes are raised theyll have to do more than that.
They will have to play better.