Mark Turgeon has always tried to avoid overstating the importance of future games to the Maryland men’s basketball team, but in the days leading up to Saturday afternoon the third-year coach couldn’t help himself. “We’ve got to get this one, guys,” Turgeon told his players when they trickled into Comcast Center for pregame activities. “I know they whipped us pretty good, but in this building, today, we’re a better basketball team.”
Little about an 83-71 victory over Florida State, vengeance for what happened four weeks ago in Tallahassee, suggested otherwise. As point guard Seth Allen scored a career-high 32 points, a total reversal from the dismal 0-for-8 shooting night he had on Jan. 12 against the Seminoles, the Terrapins were comfortably ahead the entire game, and not even a late bout of lackadaisical play threatened to derail it.
In many ways, Maryland played in the exact opposite fashion as it did during its 24-point loss at the Donald L. Tucker Center. It swiped nine steals, only missed 4 of 23 free throws and topped 50 percent shooting from the field. Despite allowing 20 offensive rebounds, the Seminoles, playing without injured guard Ian Miller (ankle), scored just 20 second-chance points and made only five three-pointers, contrasted with the 16 dropped in the first meeting.
“It’s revenge for the past two years, really,” said forward Jake Layman, who scored 12 points in 35 minutes. “They really had our number over the past couple years. It’s a big win for us.”
Turgeon, in fact, had never beaten Florida State in his career. A victory for the Seminoles would have given them just their third season sweep of Maryland, two of which would have come over the past two seasons. But all the anxiety was gone by halftime, when Allen had already matched his career high with 21 points and the Terps led 46-29.
“I just remember threes,” Allen said. “I remember walking in and they hit every shot. It was crazy. You just walked in and it was like three, three, three. We came into this game and they really embarrassed us at Florida State. It wasn’t just them making shots. We didn’t play well defensively. We watched the film as a team and we saw how bad we were defensively. Today we were great.”
Mostly, though, Allen was great. He stepped back for three-pointers and attacked the shot-blocking Seminoles for layups, making 11 of 15 shots (7 of 10 on threes), four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one turnover. Only Dez Wells, with 33 points at Boston College, had scored more points for Maryland this season.
“It’s easy to just sit back and watch somebody score,” Layman said. “When he was on fire, we didn’t care when he shot it.”
Allen, like his team, has endured plenty of highs and lows this season, he with the broken foot suffered during preseason practice, the Terps with their inconsistencies that have made them so desperate as February rolls on. Beating Florida State was their best victory in ACC play, but with games at No. 20 Virginia and No. 11 Duke within the next week, the window for celebration quickly shut after the postgame ice packs had been dumped away.
“It was good to get to 6-5 [in the ACC],” Turgeon said. “Obviously we’ve got great opportunities this week, tough places to play. But we’re getting better. We’ll see. If you can’t get excited about these two games this week, there’s something wrong with you. The key is we recover. I was hoping we could handle the lead a little better and rest guys, but we couldn’t.”
The Seminoles hung around, threatening far more than Maryland ever did in their building, but came no closer than eight points down the stretch. Allen stuck a three-pointer from the right wing. Dez Wells (15 points, six assists) made four straight free throws. And after Wells committed a turnover following a brief timeout, Florida State gave it away on four straight possessions.
“We know what they did to us down there and the past couple times we played them,” Layman said. “We were fired up for this one.”
NOTE: Make sure to check out John Feinstein’s column from the game. Turgeon talks candidly about fan support, Gary Williams.