ATLANTA — After the handshakes and the congratulatory hugs, the Maryland basketball team headed off the court on Friday afternoon for what will almost certainly be the last time this season. The looks on the players’ faces betrayed little, other than exhaustion, having given all they had to give against a North Carolina team that was simply too big, too deep, too talented and too experienced.
Coach Mark Turgeon, head down, a grim look on his face, led the way to the tunnel that would take the Terrapins to the locker room. As Turgeon and his players passed the small contingent of Maryland fans seated in that corner of the building, they began to stand, slowly at first and then almost all at once. The Terrapins were rewarded with heartfelt applause because anyone who has watched them play this winter knows that the team’s 17-15 record and the 85-69 final score Friday were just about all anyone could reasonably hope for from this team.
“When I think about this season, I’m going to hold on to [Thursday’s victory over Wake Forest] and I’m going to hold on to the Iona game [an embarrassing 89-63 loss in November] because those were the benchmarks,” Turgeon said, slumped against a wall just outside his locker room 20 minutes after his first season at Maryland had ended. “Iona was about as bad as it could get and Wake was about as good as it could get.
“Carolina is just good, I mean really good. They lose [forward John Henson to a wrist injury] and come in with [freshman James Michael] McAdoo, and I’m not sure they aren’t better with McAdoo. That kid’s a lottery pick, I mean a lottery pick, and he’s having trouble getting minutes.”
Turgeon has a lot of decisions to make in the coming weeks. The first one appears to be made: Maryland is unlikely to get an National Invitation Tournament bid on Sunday but would be a prime candidate for one of the two second-tier pay-to-play tournaments that have sprung up in recent years. If point guard Pe’Shon Howard were healthy, Turgeon might be interested in playing. But he’s not and, given Maryland’s athletic budget crisis, it makes little sense to cough up $50,000 to play in an event no one really cares about.
There is also the issue of Terrell Stoglin, his best — and most challenging — player. The sophomore guard who shoots at will probably had his best game of the season Friday. He didn’t force shots the way he often does and produced 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting. He even had two assists and didn’t turn over the ball.
The question now is whether Stoglin has played his last game in a Maryland uniform. There is almost no chance he would be drafted if he decided to pass up his last two years of college but, reportedly, he has been back and forth all season on whether he wants to return. Like Jordan Williams, who left a year ago after his sophomore season, Stoglin isn’t crazy about going to school. Stoglin could opt to leave to play overseas, although he also has repeatedly told the coaching staff he plans to come back.
“Terrell and I probably have the most honest relationship of any player I’ve ever coached,” Turgeon said. “I tell him exactly what I think and he usually listens.” He smiled. “Usually the message lasts one game. This week it was two games. That’s progress.”