So Turgeon’s first tactical move couldn’t have come as a bigger surprise. He chose not to start one of the Terrapins’ precious few seasoned hands — sophomore Terrell Stoglin, who is also the team’s most explosive scorer.
In the feel-good aftermath of an often ungainly 71-62 victory over UNC Wilmington, neither Turgeon nor Stoglin would divulge what the guard had done to earn his highly public rebuke. But once inserted into the lineup roughly four minutes into the game, Stoglin wasted no time establishing his value.
He defended furiously, sparked fast breaks when he saw openings, slowed the tempo when Turgeon directed and slashed to the basket time and again — making good on 10 of 11 free throws from the pounding that resulted. He finished the night with a team-high 22 points.
“It’s just between me and coach,” Stoglin said, asked why he was held out of the lineup. “We’re going to work on it together. . . . What he’s saying is to help me; not hurt me.”
It will go down as Lesson One of Turgeon’s tenure as Maryland’s first new basketball coach in 23 years. Tough love that — at least in this case, against a Colonial Athletic Association team that struggled last season — yielded results.
“Terrell played his tail off tonight,” Turgeon said afterward, praising Stoglin’s defense, in particular.
While it’s far too early to characterize the personality of the 2011-12 Terps, a few traits were undeniable as Sunday’s game unfolded before an appreciative crowd of 12,873.
Maryland may be short-handed this season — especially until 7-foot-1 center Alex Len completes his 10-game suspension for violation of NCAA eligibility rules and point guard Pe’Shon Howard returns (ideally in early January) from a broken foot. But the Terps seem determined to compensate for their lack of depth and talent with hard work and gritty defense.
Sunday’s game also demonstrated that the front court isn’t the liability many feared. Forwards Ashton Pankey and James Padgett added 13 and 12 points, respectively — the only other Terps to finish in double figures.
Turgeon was named Maryland’s coach in May, following the abrupt, unexpected resignation of Gary Williams.
He inherited a thin roster that had lost four of last season’s top five scorers. With Stoglin on the bench, he started sophomore Mychal Parker, along with senior guard Sean Mosley, freshman Nick Faust, Pankey and Padgett.
The first 10 minutes were hardly a thing of beauty.
Neither team shot well. There were rushed shots, selfish shots, balls that clanged off the rim, balls that missed the rim altogether and turnovers, it seemed, every few possessions.
Maryland turned it over four times in the first four minutes.
Mosley set the tone early, racing back to try to set things right on defense each time he lost the ball.
With center Berend Weijs picking up his second foul within minutes of joining the lineup, Turgeon sent out his first walk-on, 6-7 sophomore forward John Auslander.
Padgett converted a three-point play to put Maryland up, 21-15. And Terps fans came to life when Parker flung himself onto the court to retrieve a loose ball and scooped it to Stoglin, who raced to the basket for an easy bucket.
The momentum was short-lived. Wilmington’s Adam Smith, a 6-1 freshman, hit three three-pointers in a two-minute span to help pare what had been an eight-point Maryland to one, 27-26.
Stoglin was fouled while making a driving layup and sank the free throw to put Maryland up, 32-27, at the break.
Padgett opened the second-half scoring with two strong moves under the basket, and Stoglin followed to give Maryland its first double-digit lead, 38-27.
Wilmington’s three-point ace, Smith, meanwhile, couldn’t make a move without Faust in his path.
“I didn’t feel like we were going to lose ever, just because our guys have worked so hard and gotten so much better,” Turgeon said. “I expected to win.”