Terps Cut It Close

Maryland blew an 16-point lead but held on to defeat Mt. St. Mary's 77-74.

As the seconds ticked away in Wednesday night's matchup against Mount St. Mary's, Maryland was clinging to a one-point lead, in desperate need of a defensive stand.

With just under 20 seconds remaining, Julian Norfleet took his dribble left down what appeared to be an open lane to the bucket. However, freshman Nick Faust had other plans. Faust's soaring block on Norfleet with 14 seconds left in the game sealed the deal for the Terps, who went on to win 77-74.

“I was just trying to recover and help the team do whatever I could do to help us win,” said Faust about his timely swat. “So I just saw the guy going up for the layup and I just timed it right and blocked it.”

In what he called his most comfortable game of the season, Faust registered 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field to go along with six rebounds and five assists in his team-high 37 minutes of play Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Turgeon met with Faust to talk about the freshman's early season struggles and where his head needed to be. According to Faust, the meeting was a success.

“It relieved me,” said Faust. “I definitely was stressing about scoring and not putting up a lot of numbers. But now that's not really the focus for me. I'm just trying to do whatever to help the team, whether that's boxing out, rebounding or defending then that's what I have to do. I just gotta let the offense come to me.”

“I met with Nick yesterday and I said your offense can't affect the rest of your game,” said Turgeon. “You gotta defend. You gotta rebound. You gotta make assists. Make guys around you better… I thought he played with great effort. And he didn't give up on that last play, which some kids would.”

The Terps, as a team, managed perhaps their best offensive performance of the season in the first half Wednesday, shooting 15-of-25 from the field (60.0%) and 14-for-20 (70.0%) from the line. Maryland recorded eight assists in the first twenty minutes to a mere two turnovers. At the half, four Maryland players had at least eight points (Stoglin - 13, Pankey - 9, Padgett and Faust - 8), contributing to a 45-32 halftime lead.

The Mountaineers managed to hang on thanks in large part to their performance from behind the arc in the first half, where they were 6-of-9 (66.7%).

But, as has been the case in many of the Terps' games thus far, Wednesday night was a tale of two halves.

Mount St. Mary's stormed back in the second half, whittling the one time double-digit lead down further and further as the half progressed. The Mountaineers continued their hot shooting from outside, ending the game 11-for-21 (52.4%).

Maryland didn't do much to help their cause during the second half slide. After only two first half turnovers, the Terps lost the ball nine times in the second half.

“I don't know if the defense got worse in the second half, but their execution got better,” said Turgeon. “I think they just played with so much more confidence. They made a lot of really good plays.”

That was not to say that Turgeon was pleased with the defensive effort from his team however. “I'm not used to not guarding,” said Turgeon. “This is all new to me. We're not a bad team but we're not guarding. If you guard the game's not close.”

The Mountaineers took the lead for the first time with 7:50 remaining in the game when Kelvin Parker knocked down two free throws to give his team a 61-59 advantage. From that point on, the two teams exchanged blows until the closing seconds.

Faust knocked down a big 3-pointer with 6:32 to put the Terps up by two, but the pesky Mountaineers wouldn't go away. A 3-pointer by Josh Castellanos with 3:49 remaining put Maryland behind 68-67.

By this point, Terrell Stoglin had seen enough. The sophomore guard took over, scoring on three consecutive possessions, igniting the crowd and providing a pulse for what looked like a dead Terrapin squad. Stoglin finished the game with a team-high 23 points.

“It's good because it takes the pressure off everyone else having a great player like Terrell,” said redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey. “It's great to play along side Terrell.”

Although Stoglin was once again able to keep his team afloat in a vital situation late in the game, Turgeon expressed his growing concern with the increasingly evident trend. “We gotta figure it out,” said Turgeon of his team's offensive woes without the ACC's leading scorer in the lineup. “We can't just rely on that kid all year.”

When asked whether the other players seem lost offensively on the floor without their point guard, Turgeon was quick to assess the team's mindset. “Kids today, that's all they think about, is scoring. So they probably like it when he's not out there,” joked Turgeon.

Ashton Pankey, who only played one minute against Notre Dame due to what Turgeon called a “coach's decision” had a solid showing on Wednesday, scoring 13 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.

“I was pleased with Pankey,” said Turgeon. “I thought the first ten minutes of the game our post guys were as weak as they could play … their post guys were men. Big strong guys and were knocking us around and we're falling down and I thought they were manhandling us. But then I thought Pankey stepped up.”

“It felt great,” said Pankey of getting back on the court. “Last game was a little setback but I had a meeting with coach and I'm gonna do the things I need to do to be a better player and a better teammate.”

Pankey's partner down low, junior James Padgett, had another impressive showing Wednesday with 15 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes of play.

Despite their second half slide, Maryland impressed late in the game Wednesday, showing poise during the tight closing moments of the game, something Turgeon attributes to preparation for such situations.

“I talk to them all the time and I tell them if it's a close game we're gonna win it,” said Turgeon. “Now, what really helps is if you defend and rebound, then you really win close games and we're not doing that yet. But we executed.”

The coach's confident approach towards the nerve-racking final seconds was apparent in his players' approach. “No. No panic at all,” said Pankey. “We just had to stick together pretty much. Coach emphasized staying together, getting in the huddle together. He said keep playing hard and do whatever it takes to win.”

The Terps will have a week to rest before they take on Florida International next Wednesday at the Comcast Center. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

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