Maryland basketball vs. Florida International: Terrapins survive stiff test from Isiah Thomas, Golden Panthers


Guard Nick Faust, center, (9 points, three assists) and the Terps rally to beat the Golden Panthers at Comcast Center to improve to 6-3. U-Md. will not return to the court until Dec. 23 against Radford. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

There was bound to come a time when Maryland would have to stop relying on its 6-foot-1, 185-pound security blanket, sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin.

It came Wednesday at Comcast Center, where Stoglin, whose late-game scoring eruptions had extricated the Terrapins from so many near defeats this season, was relegated to the bench with foul trouble, his team trailing Florida International with more than 13 minutes remaining.

The result was yet another narrow Maryland victory, with the Terps mounting a fierce defensive stand to edge FIU, 65-61.

Despite playing a season-low 28 minutes, Stoglin led the Terps with 20 points, while redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey (13) and senior Sean Mosley (12) also finished in double figures.

Pankey, sidelined much of the first half to get three stitches in his lower lip after a collision, came up with two huge blocks in a six-second span to snuff out an FIU rally with less than one minute to play.

But no individual statistic was as significant as the collective defensive effort and methodical, if not flashy, offense waged by Stoglin’s teammates when the Terps’ leading scorer could do nothing but watch from the bench.

“We learned to play without him, and that was great,” Coach Mark Turgeon said of Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer at 22.5 points per game entering Wednesday’s contest. “You could not have scripted it better.”

Said Pankey, who added six rebounds and two steals to his 13-points, two-block performance: “It’s scary how good we’re going to be! It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there.”

It was Maryland’s third consecutive victory, and the Terps (6-3) have shown steady progress — particularly on defense. They held FIU to 27 points on 35.5 percent shooting in the second half to overcome what had been an 11-point deficit in the first half.

But Maryland has yet to beat an opponent by double digits. While not gifted offensively (Stoglin excepted), Maryland is scrappy and opportunistic in scoring. Against FIU (3-7), the Terps earned more than one-third of their points (22 of 65) on the free throw line, with Stoglin accounting for half of those.

“He’s a great scorer,” FIU Coach Isiah Thomas said of Stoglin. “And Maryland has a way of manufacturing points when things aren’t going well for them.”

Stoglin, who missed much of the week’s practice with a twisted right ankle suffered late in late Wednesday’s victory over Mount St. Mary’s, got off to a rocky start, turning the ball over twice and missing his first five shots.

Berend Weijs got a put-back that gave Maryland a 19-16 lead.

But FIU went on an 18-4 run, exploiting a rash of turnovers and getting seven consecutive points from 5-10 sophomore guard Phil Taylor (20 points). And with a three-pointer by Jeremy Allen (18 points), the Panthers took a double-digit lead, 34-23.

The Panthers’ run was halted by a trip to the free throw line by Stoglin, who hit a pair as compensation for a technical foul and followed with two others to pull Maryland within seven, 34-27, at the break.

Maryland pulled within two, 38-36, early in the second half on a hard-earned jumper by Mosley.

Soon after Stoglin drew his fourth foul and sat.

Mosley salvaged a clumsy Maryland possession with a jumper and extra point to reclaim the lead, 49-48, with 9 minutes 10 seconds remaining,

Then came a tortured stretch of nearly seven minutes in which neither team made a field goal.

Stoglin re-entered and snapped the drought to put the Terps up, 56-52.

And with less than one minute to play, Pankey blocked successive Panthers shots and converted a free throw.

After missing a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining and FIU within two, 63-61, freshman Nick Faust hit a layup for the final margin.

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. She has also covered seven Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.

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