The Maryland men’s basketball season reached its nadir at halftime of Saturday’s 85-61 loss to 17th-ranked Michigan, with fans booing their lungs out as Terrapins Coach Mark Turgeon walked off the floor. His team trailed by 30. The most lopsided home loss in program history was by 39 points in 1963 — and this abysmal performance appeared a lock to crush that mark.
Even if it had, the Xfinity Center crowd could not have sounded more disgruntled. If there were any doubts about friction between Turgeon and the fan base before Saturday, the first 20 minutes of the game put that to rest. It wasn’t even the beginning of Turgeon’s problems on this surreal final day of the regular season. Before he even began to speak about the embarrassing defeat, he opened his postgame news conference by addressing the elephant in the room.
Less than 24 hours after Maryland was implicated in a news report stemming from the FBI’s ongoing investigation into corruption in college basketball, Turgeon reiterated that he had no knowledge of payments alleged to have been made to former Terrapins player Diamond Stone by an agent. He also confirmed that the university had launched an internal investigation of the allegations but had not heard from the NCAA as of Saturday afternoon.
“We’ll cooperate in any way we can with the investigation,” Turgeon said. “That being said, I’m going to apologize and I’m going to take full credit for today because we weren’t very good.”
Turgeon didn’t have his team ready to play, and it was widely apparent from the onset. He had addressed the Stone allegations with his team Friday before practice — “He told us it had nothing to do with us,” sophomore Anthony Cowan Jr. said — but Turgeon refused to use any distraction caused by the news as an excuse.
Saturday figured to be something of a reprieve for the Terrapins. It was Senior Day. The arena was nearly sold out. Big-name alums, including Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith, showed up to watch Maryland (19-12, 8-10 Big Ten) try to end the regular season on a high note and enter next week’s Big Ten tournament with some hopes of getting into the NCAA tournament picture.
So it was bizarre to see the Terrapins look lost in the first half, particularly on defense. Maryland over-helped on countless possessions. It didn’t close out on shooters. It watched eight turnovers turn into transition opportunities. All told, the Wolverines hit 11 of their 15 three-pointers in the first half. Six of those came from senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who finished with a career-high 28 points .
Abdur-Rahkman scored 22 points in the first half, when Michigan shot a blistering 60.7 percent from the field and at one point went on a 28-6 run. Abdur-Rahkman was left wide open in transition in the final seconds of the first half, too, drilling a three-pointer in front of Turgeon to make it 54-24 and trigger a cascade of boos.
“We kind of reverted back to our old selves for a stretch, where we weren’t guarding the three-point line,” said guard Kevin Huerter, who finished with 12 points on 14 shots.
“I think it was a little bit of everything . . . we couldn’t get stops, we couldn’t score,” said Cowan, who finished with 17 points.
The loudest cheers of the day came early in the second half, when Turgeon inserted walk-on guard Reese Mona to try to jump-start his group. The crowd erupted when Mona scored a transition layup to cut the lead to 24. A few minutes later, Maryland tied a bow on its embarrassing day. Freshman Bruno Fernando, who did not look like his usual energetic self, missed a dunk with just less than 12 minutes left.
His freshman teammate, Darryl Morsell — who has also been lauded for his intensity but struggled to get going Saturday — lodged a point-blank layup attempt between the rim and the backboard. For long stretches, it looked like a distracted team, though Turgeon promised that the previous 24 hours hadn’t hampered game-planning for the Wolverines.
“Not difficult at all, because I haven’t given [the Stone allegations] any thought. I’m pissed about it, but I haven’t given it any thought,” he said. “I’m disappointed I didn’t have my team ready.”
Michigan (24-7, 13-5) continued to fire away as fans headed for the exits, capping what has been perhaps the most turbulent 24-hour period for the program in the past decade. This game will be remembered for a litany of low marks. It was the first time since 1937 that Maryland lost to Michigan at home. It had not lost by more than 18 points at home since 1998, in a 32-point loss to Duke. Mostly, it will be remembered as the most lopsided loss at home in Turgeon’s seven years in College Park.
His team is locked into the No. 8 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament, which Maryland will almost certainly have to win to make its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. On Saturday, that couldn’t have been further from Turgeon’s mind.
He walked into the locker room after the game and blamed himself for the loss. He told his players to take Sunday off and that if he saw any quit in his players when they returned Monday, that they would run sprints. Then he walked across the hall and into the press room to talk about the clouds hanging over his program.
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