In a tale of two radically different halves, Maryland delivered a feel-good finish Wednesday at Comcast Center, overcoming a dreadful shooting performance over the final 16 minutes to defeat Wake Forest, 70-64.
The Terrapins (11-4, 1-1 ACC) opened their first conference game at home with their best defensive performance of the season, holding the Demon Deacons to 24 first-half points.
But after surging to an 18-point lead that had the crowd of 13,357 on its feet, Maryland lost all semblance of its shooting touch and the ability to contain Wake Forest’s guards, who started driving to the basket with abandon. Meantime, the Demon Deacons’ pair of 7-foot centers blocked 10 shots between them.
Wake Forest (10-6, 1-1) made it a one-possession game, trailing 50-47, with 8 minutes 54 seconds to play on back-to-back baskets by Ty Walker. And suddenly, it looked as it Maryland was about to reprise Sunday’s loss at N.C. State, in which a second-half defensive lapse put the game out of reach.
The difference on Wednesday was that Maryland summoned the poise and toughness to fend off Wake’s rally, with senior Sean Mosley grabbing a key offensive rebound at a crucial stretch, junior forward James Padgett making seven of nine free throws and sophomore Terrell Stoglin supplying a team-high 20 points.
“We’ve seen that recipe before,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said of the topsy-turvy nature of the Terps’ play, with Maryland shooting 45 percent in the first half and 24 percent in the second half.
It was hardly elegant or overpowering basketball. It was a matter of grinding, and Maryland wasn’t about to let any lack of talent stand in the way of a victory — particularly after getting outmuscled by N.C. State three days earlier.
When their jump shots betrayed them, the Terps started driving to the basket and drawing fouls, ultimately earning more than one-third of their points (24 of 70) on the free throw line.
“You figure out ways to win games,” said Turgeon, who confessed he was more nervous before tipoff than he had been all season. “Tonight we did it with second-chance points and getting to the foul line.”
Turgeon chose not to start Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, as a disciplinary measure for a matter that he said would stay between the two of them.
“I’m trying to make Terrell a man,” Turgeon said. “There are responsibilities out of basketball you have to do. We’ll see if it helps him. It’s nothing major, but the kid needs to grow up.”
Stoglin came off the bench roughly two minutes into the game, and the teams swapped the lead early until Maryland clamped down on defense and went on a 13-2 run. Stoglin scored eight of those points, staking Maryland to a 22-13 lead.
The arena erupted when Nick Faust raced the length of court for an easy layup and converted the three-point play to go up, 34-16. And Maryland took a 40-24 lead to the break, having held Wake Forest to just 34.5 percent shooting in the half.
Maryland got off to a torrid start in the second half, with a dunk by Padgett and a jumper by Stoglin that put the Terps up, 44-26.
Soon after Mosley drew his third foul and sat. And Wake Forest reclaimed the momentum, cutting the margin to eight on a 12-2 run.
Meanwhile, Maryland was 3 of 18 from the field, unable to hit jumpers or get putbacks.
Mosley finished with 15 points. Padgett added 11 points and eight rebounds. And Ashton Pankey had a team-high nine boards, along with nine points.