During his first two seasons with Wichita State at the start of this century, Mark Turgeon’s Shockers were an atrocious 3-20 in true road games. Ever since, however, Turgeon-coached teams have always excelled away from home. In his five remaining seasons at Wichita State, his teams averaged 6.6 road wins per season. In four seasons that followed at Texas A&M, that average was 4.8.
Yet in his first season at Maryland, Turgeon’s team went 1-6 in true road games. This season, the Terps are 1-4 on the road as they struggle to discover their identity outside of College Park. Granted, ever since demolishing Northwestern in November’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Maryland has faced a gantlet of tough teams away from home. Losing by seven points at Miami now seems miraculous given the Hurricanes’ recent surge. The Terps fell behind early at North Carolina and fell apart late at Duke. Michael Snaer, college basketball’s buzzer-beating king, crushed their hopes at Florida State.
Now, coming off a 26-point home win over Wake Forest and a five-day break, Maryland travels to Virginia Tech searching for its first ACC road win since beating Clemson on Feb. 7, 2012, exactly one year ago. The Terps have plenty more to lose than gain in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies have lost four straight, and Maryland beat them by 24 on Jan. 5. A loss Thursday night would be a disappointment, and while winning won’t exactly impress the NCAA tournament selection committee, it would give this young group a confidence boost on the road.
“We’re getting close,” Turgeon said. “I’ve done this before. Am I disappointed? We had the last one [against Florida State], let it get away. We could not be talking about it, but here we go again, talking about it. I’m disappointed. We did win at Northwestern, which has won some pretty good games in that league. Talk about the same things, I believe in it, my teams have been good road teams. This team, hopefully before this year’s over, becomes a really good road team. We’re getting there. I’m not going to panic.”
But is there any common denominator between Turgeon’s previous teams that actually succeeded on the road?
“More veterans,” he said. “Older. Older. First two years at Wichita State, I was rebuilding, we might have won one road game in two years. I see it coming. We’re getting there. We all want it to happen two months ago but we’re getting there. We want to be a part of the NCAA tournament, we have to win some road games. We know that. But we’re not putting a ton of pressure on us. We’ll go out there and relax, play the way we’re capable about.”
Clearly, the window for impressive wins is closing. From here on out, the Terps only travel to the ACC’s cellar-dwellers, save a season-ending date at Virginia (the Cavaliers are 13-1 at home). Maryland has taken care of business at home and will need to do so when Duke and North Carolina come to town, but certainly can’t afford dropping letdowns at the likes of Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and, yes, Virginia Tech.
“We’re focused on this next game right now, but we need a good road win,” guard Seth Allen said Wednesday. “We believe it can start tomorrow.”
>> Sounds like the Terps will plan to stop Hokies guard Erick Green much like they did in early January, when Green notched a game-high 28 points and attempted 11 free throws. Obviously, something went awry then, but Maryland was far more balanced offensively and still ran away with the game.
The scheme back then, as it will be Thursday, focuses on a rotating cast of defenders (Nick Faust will start, aided by Allen, Pe’Shon Howard and Dez Wells) that will try to keep Green off the foul line and harass him into difficult shots long the perimeter.
“We fouled him too much,” Turgeon said. “Going to their place, it’ll make it even harder. … He’s good. He’s really good. You watch him on film, it’s like, ‘Wow, what a year he’s having.’ If he gets 25 again, I hope it’s on 22 shots. He’s got to really work for them, and we have to do a better job on ball-screen defense, we have to do a better job keeping him off the foul line. If we can do those two things, and if he has 25 on 20 shots, that’ll really help us and give us a chance to win.”