Terps Gut Out Win Over Wake
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing performance Feb. 18 at the Comcast Center, but Maryland (15-12, 7-7 ACC) did end its two-game losing streak with a 71- 60 victory against a struggling Wake Forest (14-12, 4-9) squad that has now lost six in a row. With an upcoming bout against No. 1 Syracuse, and after playing two ranked teams in Virginia and Duke, it was almost inevitable the Terps would letdown -- at least initially.
"You're coming off an unbelievably emotional game [a 69-67 loss to Duke], and we rolled out instead of rolling in," Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. "No matter how hard you try… We never talked about Duke, we moved on. But at about the 12 to eight minute timeout [against Wake], I told them, ‘We've got to start being tougher guys. You've got an hour-and-a-half to toughen up and figure this out.'
"We didn't play particularly well throughout the game, but we still were in control. We're coming. You've become a good team when you don't play well and you're still in control."
Fortunately for the Terps, junior wing Nick Faust found his stroke from deep and nailed 4 of 7 3-pointers. He ended up scoring a career-high 20 points, to go along with four assists, a block and a steal. Faust actually missed his first two 3s, but after that he dialed in, spinning a layup off the glass before canning his first trey almost 14 minutes into the game. His 3-pointer right before halftime gave Maryland its largest lead up the night, 30-25, and from there the Terps never looked back.
"I just try to get the team going, whether it's going to the basket, kicking it out to Jake [Layman], even getting a shot for myself," Faust said. "I just try to do all the little things we weren't doing, I just try to execute.
"I was just feeling it. I missed the first one but I stuck with it. I tried to find guys when I could, made shots when I could… Today was definitely a complete game, even had a block in there."
Although he did have two turnovers, made an ill-advised skip pass and took one rushed jumper, Faust proved to be the best player on the floor.
"Nick was terrific," Turgeon said. "He made shots, made passes, forced those two turnovers -- he really guarded. I thought Nick looked fresh. He played 32 minutes made free throws, did a lot of good things."
Maryland needed the whole lot of those "good things," because the Terps had eight first-half turnovers and struggled against Wake Forest's zone. After Seth Allen drilled a 3 to push UMD ahead 7-4, the Deacons employed a 2-3 and Maryland proceeded to miss its next eight shots as Wake went on a 9-0 run.
In addition, Maryland failed to get back in transition as Wake scored six straight points off Terps misses and eight overall in the first half. Almost half (12) of the Deacons' 25 initial points came in the paint. Even though Maryland played solid defense in the half court at times, forcing three shot-clock violations, Wake, led by Travis McKie (16 total poins) and Codi Miller-McIntyre (12 total points) still shot 52.4 percent from the field (11 of 21) during that first 20 minutes.
"Their transition buckets came at the beginning. We came out lazy and it showed," said sophomore Jake Layman, who had 11 points and two steals in his second straight solid defensive effort. "But Coach got into us and after that we came out with a lot more intensity. We just locked in and really started guarding. It was close, but after the first half we really locked in and started playing well."
After making more than half their shots in the first half, Wake shot just 43.3 percent in the latter frame. The Deacons also scored 12 fast-break points compared to 20 in the first half. Moreover, Wake turned the ball over 18 times, eight of them coming in the second half.
"We guarded well the last 10 minutes of the [first] half. Once they had eight points in transition we took that away," Turgeon said. "Defensively we really finished the half. Then from about the 16 minute mark to the 8 minute mark of the second half was the difference in the game, because we started guarding. They had 10 points right out of the half and then we really started guarding."
The team didn't want to use it as an excuse, but it was obvious the Duke loss was hanging over them at the outset. Maryland, of course, came within a last-second Charles Mitchell hook shot of upsetting the No. 8 Blue Devils, but instead had to settle for a "gutty effort" a "moral victory" and all those terms that don't mean much to the tournament committee when all is said and done.
"We really didn't want to say it, but [the Duke loss] was still there for us," Faust said. "Coach spotted it early and inspired us to come out with energy, but we really didn't have it… But I just tried to do what I could off the bench and really help the team."
The Terps needed it, because two of the team's most reliable performers, Seth Allen and Dez Wells, had off shooting nights, the former going 2-of-9 from the field while turning the ball over twice, and the latter dropping in just six points on a 2-of-8 performance. Allen did redeem himself with three assists, while Wells had a game-high four steals on defense, but neither executed at the level they're capable of.
The good news for the Terps is for the second consecutive game a pair of freshmen showed signs of maturing. Point guard Roddy Peters haded out three assists and had just one turnover, while center Damonte Dodd had three rebounds and a block.
"I though Damonte gave us a great lift on defense, and I thought Roddy Peters played really well tonight -- he really ran the team," Turgeon said. "Seth just didn't have it tonight, but Roddy was playing so well, and we didn't have to use him. It's amazing [Allen] still scored 10 points."
Mitchell, who scored 12 points, second most on the team, had plenty of praise for his understudy as well. The sophomore has watched Dodd develop from someone who looked a bit lost earlier this season to a valuable defensive contributor during the latter parts of the campaign.
"[Dodd's] just getting smarter, going harder," Mitchell said. "I told him I was a freshman last year so I know what he's going through. I told him to focus on the little things, especially on defense. He just has to grow, and he's gotten better every day."
Mitchell himself had a nice effort, especially considering how the Duke game ended. The big man could have easily let the last-second miss affect him, but 27 seconds into the Deacons bout he had a layup inside – off a hook shot no less. In addition to his dozen points, he had seven rebounds, although he did turn it over five times.
"Charles played his tail off in that [Duke] game, the ball just happened to roll out instead of rolling in," Turgeon said. "He scored [against Wake], he's got his jump hook working right now, he defended. He turned it over too much tonight, he gets a little bit careless, but we all moved forward [from Duke]."
The sophomore said he got 150 text messages after the Blue Devils outing, but he refused to dwell on the miss. He said the next day in practice he was "all Wake Forest" and worked to help his team get better.
"Chuck's a tough kid. He wouldn't' dwell on something like that," Layman said. "He played great tonight [against Wake], and hopefully he'll do the same thing the rest of the year."
Maryland will need Mitchell, in addition to Faust, Wells, Allen, Layman and the rest during the stretch run. The Terps have a date with No. 1 Syracuse looming, and if they have any hope of registering on the Tournament committee's radar, UMD almost has to pull of an Orange upset.
"We know what lies ahead," Turgeon said. "We know what opportunities we have. Hopefully we can get through this win, get mentally fresh and make a run down the stretch."
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