WASHINGTON – Mark Turgeon will, eventually, build Maryland back into a team that consistently wins 25 games and challenges for ACC titles every couple of years.
That, I am sure of.
But Turgeon’s push to get Maryland back among college basketball’s elite must start with a return to mediocrity for the Terps.
I don’t think anyone would blame the former Texas A&M and Wichita State head coach if the events of the past seven months, when he took over for the suddenly-retired Gary Williams, made Turgeon feel as if he was drawing against a set deck. The best player on Maryland’s roster last year, Jordan Williams, entered the NBA Draft. Two talented recruits in Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig opted to head to Texas and Washington, respectively, instead of play for a coach that didn’t recruit them. Another recruit, late-signee Alex Len, has to sit out the first ten games of the season. Len was then joined by talented sophomore Pe’Shon Howard, who is battling a broken foot.
What’s left is a depleted roster that lacks size in the middle and will spend quite a few games in the role of the underdog. Losses to Alabama, Iona and Illinois by 20, 26 and nine points, respectively, prove that fact.
Those other teams, however, don’t have Terrell Stoglin, Maryland’s sophomore point guard that went for 31 points on 11-20 shooting while turning the ball over just once in 37 ball-dominating minutes as the Terps knocked off Notre Dame 78-71 at the Verizon Center on Sunday evening.
“Stoglin’s like World B. Free,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said after the game. “He’s the microwave of College Park.”This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
That, frankly, is a pretty accurate description of Stoglin. He’s a strong and quick left-handed point guard that is capable of getting to the rim, but thrives in the mid-range; his pull-up jump is so tough to defend because he gets it off very quickly and he can hit the shot with a defender draped on his arm. As Brey put it, “he hits tough shots.”
Stoglin came into this game averaging 21.0 ppg, and while the season is only seven games old, those 31 points were not even a season-high for the sophomore from Arizona. He had 32 points in a win over Colorado. It goes without saying that he is capable of carrying this Maryland for long stretches at a time and enough of a threat that Maryland will have a puncher’s chance in every game they play the season, especially when Len and Howard get healthy.
In the first half, Stoglin scored 11 straight points to keep Notre Dame, who started the game out hot, from building more than a 15-12 lead. While he cooled off for the rest of the half — he didn’t score again until there were only 43 seconds left before the break — Stoglin once again took over in the second stanza, scoring clutch hoop after clutch hoop.
He scored back-to-back buckets to push Maryland’s lead up 51-40 midway through the half. After Notre Dame had whittled that lead down to just three points, Stoglin again hit back-to-back jumpers before knifing through the lane for an and-one layup that pushed the lead back to ten points. After Notre Dame was again able to get within three, this time after Maryland missed a couple of free throws and Notre Dame hit a couple of threes, Stoglin hit a tough jumper with 13 seconds left to ice the game.
“I was going to go to the basket,” Stoglin said, “but when I pulled up I felt he fouled me on the elbow, so I just wanted to get the ref to call a foul. He didn’t, but I thank God I made the shot.”
“We needed Terrell tonight,” Turgeon added. “Terrell hit the big shot. He hit a lot of them.”
Stoglin isn’t going to be able to do it all every night. For Maryland to win, they are going to need veteran leader Sean Mosley — a guy that Turgeon referred to as a “winner” and a “man out there” — to be a reliable secondary scoring option and the kind of defender and rebounder that he was today. Mosley finished with 17 points — hitting 5-8 from the floor and 5-6 from the free throw line — to go along with six boards, three assists and no turnovers. Freshman Nick Faust and Howard, when he’s healthy, will also be counted on in the back court.
James Padgett finished with a double-double while Berend Weijs added career highs of seven points and six boards. Performances like that will go a long way for Turgeon’s club, although I’m sure that the five-guard lineup that Mike Brey used in the second half contributed to those numbers.
But Stoglin has the ability to be a difference-maker. He makes tough shots, he makes clutch shots and, most importantly, he wants the ball in his hands.
“Terrell got mad at me [in the second half],” Turgeon said after the game. “I wasn’t running any plays for him. I said ‘I got you Terrell, you’ll have plenty of chances to score for us.'”
And he did.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.