It had all the makings of another rout, another feel-good win in ACC play for the Maryland men’s basketball team. Up 11 points with 16:28 left in the second half against visiting Florida State on Jan. 9, the Terrapins were sitting pretty.
Then an Okaro White-led battering ram bashed through Comcast Center. Slowly, the Seminoles began chipping away. First, leading scorer Michael Snaer drained a three-pointer and stuck a layup. After an Alex Len dunk on the other end, Florida State went on an 11-0 run, holding Maryland without a field goal for nearly seven minutes, until Logan Aronhalt stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer.
By that stage, however, White had started taking over, scoring 15 straight points and leading the Seminoles to a 65-62 victory. They clinched the win when, with two seconds left, Seth Allen had his three-pointer blocked by Snaer at the top of the key.
Coach Mark Turgeon said that loss was probably the toughest of Maryland’s five defeats this season, which include a narrow loss in the season opener against Kentucky, a 20-point rout at Duke, a miserable offensive performance at Miami and a sizable first-half egg laid at North Carolina.
The Terps have relived the pain of the Florida State loss. They watched plenty of film afterward as the rematch neared. Turgeon insisted he doesn’t want that game to affect Wednesday’s matchup in Tallahassee, but it’s hard to forget the first time Maryland faced adversity and crumbled.
“It probably was the toughest,” Turgeon said. “We all expected to win, and we didn’t. … We missed some wide-open looks. And we just panicked. Players panicked, coaches panicked. Kept trying different things. Didn’t work. Good crowd, 16,000 people, someone made a run on us. Building caves in on you a little bit when you don’t have the experience, and it caved in on us.
“And there wasn’t anybody who could make a play for us. We couldn’t make a play around the rim, because they kept blocking them, therefore you have to make a jumper or get fouled, and we weren’t able to do that. Give them credit. [Coach] Leonard [Hamilton] did a good job that game. But our guys know. We learn from it. It’ll be a different animal down there. Road’s completely different.”
Really, it was the first time Maryland was up and subsequently faltered against such a veteran opponent. Sure, the Terps lost leads before, most notably seeing a 20-point lead that Stony Brook whittled away to three late in the game. But in their other losses, they played catch-up, and are 0-4 this season when trailing at halftime.
Florida State was a different story. The Seminoles roared back and punched Maryland straight in the mouth. Rather than slug back, the Terps staggered.
Wednesday marks the latest chapter in Turgeon’s quest to transform Maryland into a solid road team, no easy task in the brutally even ACC. The Terps are 0-for-Florida over the past three seasons, and haven’t won in the Sunshine State since Feb. 4, 2010, in a 71-67 triumph over the Seminoles.
“A lot of basketball left. I know there’s a lot of fight in us,” Turgeon said. “I think it’s going in the right direction. I really do. I’m not saying I’m so proud, I love losing by 20 at Duke. Because I don’t. I was pissed. And that’s no fun.
“But we did a lot of things in that game that give me confidence moving forward. We’ve got a young team. … I think the future looks pretty good. Hopefully the future starts Wednesday night.”
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— POLL TIME! Who ya got, Maryland or Florida State?