“No school,” they chanted. “No school. No school.”
It was all in jest, of course. Hours earlier, before Maryland clinched its trip to New York City for the NIT semifinals with a win over Alabama, Turgeon scrawled a list of legendary Madison Square Garden performances onto a nearby whiteboard. Names like Kobe, Jordan and Chamberlain appeared. So did Tom McMillen, the NIT MVP at the Garden for Maryland in 1972. By halftime, the list had expanded outside basketball, to include Ali-Frazier and, in a rare moment of revealed pop-culture knowledge, Michael Jackson.
Those names elicited enthusiastic nods and focused stares as the Terps soaked up history. But Turgeon truly hooked his players by reminding them that, yes, a trip to New York City meant missing a few more days of classes. So after a thrilling 59-57 win over Alabama, the Terps made sure he knew they remembered.
“We all know the importance of Madison Square Garden and we’re excited to be back, but like I said, we know it takes two games not just one,” point guard Pe’Shon Howard said.
The impending trip holds plenty of significance. It offers a chance for redemption after a topsy-turvy ACC slate sent Maryland spiraling into the NIT. A bitter taste still lingers from the season-opening loss to Kentucky in Brooklyn, too. Plus, Maryland wants to send senior James Padgett, himself a New York City native, out on a high note.
‘Oh, so happy,” freshman Jake Layman said. “We’re ready to go. We know the history behind the place, how special it is to play there and who’s played there. It’s going to be awesome.”
Playing at Madison Square Garden, beneath the glowing orange lights that black out the crowd, is second fiddle at this point. Entering the ACC tournament, Maryland insisted it was built for the postseason, peaking at the right time. Now comes the chance to prove it in the Big Apple.
“We’re excited to go play at Madison Square Garden, the best arena in the world,” said Alex Len, sounding every bit like a club promoter. “We’re looking forward to it.”
>> Much was made during the NCAA tournament’s first weekend about the flagrant foul rule change. Virtually every game featured a CBS graphic explaining the difference between a flagrant-1 and a flagrant-2.
Maryland’s Charles Mitchell got whistled for a flagrant-1 early in the first half after spinning on the low block and clipping his defender up high. Levi Randolph sank both free throws, but Alabama committed a turnover when it regained possession.
>> Speaking of Mitchell’s flagrant foul, Turgeon yanked him from the game and subbed in James Padgett for a few minutes, the senior’s only appearance Tuesday night. Except Padgett never showed up in the official box score. (UPDATE: It was corrected shortly later Tuesday night. Obviously just a minor data logging mistake. Still amusing though.)
Padgett’s minutes continue to slide, however. More on this later in the week.
>> Some quick-and-dirty stats:
– Per Patrick Stevens, the Terps will set a program record with 38 games played this season.
– Len’s five blocks tied his season high.
– Howard hit his first three-pointer since the Wake Forest game during the ACC tournament.
– Mitchell started for the first time since Jan. 22 against Boston College.
– Layman’s 13 points were his most since dropping 14 at Virginia Tech on Feb. 7.
– Dez Wells’s five turnovers were more than he’s had in the past three games combined (four). He also reached double figures for the 10th straight game, and is averaging 17.8 points per game during that span.
– Layman (33 minutes) and Howard (35 minutes) both logged season highs. Wells’s 36 minutes were his most in a regulation game, too, though he played 40 in the overtime game at Virginia.
– Nick Faust finished just 1 for 5 from the field and had three points, his lowest output since the Terps won in Blacksburg. He entered with double-digit points in seven straight games.
– Take out the Niagara game (5 for 7 on three-pointers) and Logan Aronhalt is 4 for 25 (16 percent) from distance over the past seven games. He was 1 for 5 against the Crimson Tide, but hit a nice mid-range jumper from near the elbow.
>> While we’re on Aronhalt, he got stretched out on the plane.
Whatever it takes to get ready for the next one: Logan getting stretched out on the plane. twitter.com/TerrapinHoops/…
— Maryland Basketball (@TerrapinHoops) March 27, 2013
>> Dez Wells’s mother was pretty stoked about traveling to New York City.
I can’t stop screaming, I’m going to NY!!!!!!!!!! 1 st time!!! Terps is making it happen!!!!!!!
— pweezy2 (@p_Wells2) March 27, 2013