If you told Mark Turgeon and his team that his Terrapins would be riding a 5-game winning streak in the midst of a grueling Big Ten schedule, they would feel nothing short of ecstatic. With an overall record of 14-3 and all three losses by a total of 11 points (UVA, Purdue, Seton Hall), the Maryland Terrapins are taking charge at the exact right time.
Leading up to the 2018-19 NCAA Basketball season, I was bullish on Mark Turgeon’s future with the Terrapins. I declared he would need a big season on unproven talent. Players with little experience playing big minutes have really helped the Terrapins’ fortune. Underclassmen-turned-makeshift veterans such as Anthony Cowan Jr. (JR) and Bruno Fernando (SO) have been playing top-flight basketball and look every bit like a dangerous team in March.
Their most recent victory came in their first home game since Jan. 2, and the Terps didn’t disappoint their 15,000+ person crowd at the Xfinity Center. Bruno Fernando led the way, energizing his teammates and scoring a career-high 25 points, adding 13 rebounds and three assists, all while shooting at an unreal 11-for-12 clip.
Knocking off #22 ranked Indiana in their own house was huge for the Terrapins, but don’t go telling that to Mark Turgeon. His concerns vary far past Friday’s win over the Hoosiers.
“Hopefully we can become a better first-half team,” is all Turgeon had to say following the win. It was another painfully slow start for the Terrapins, who found themselves down by as many as 13 only 12 minutes into the game.
After avoiding what would have been a complete catastrophe, Maryland survived a late-game scare from Wisconsin, winning 64-60. Maryland held as large as an 18-point lead, multiple times. After only allowing the Badgers to 15 first-half points, the game appeared to be over.
However, after two quick fouls on Bruno Fernando, the Badgers got hot from the outside. After overcoming their colossal deficit, Wisconsin found themselves leading by one in College Park. With 44 seconds remaining in the game, Anthony Cowan delivered from the same spot Melo Trimble delivered in Madison, WI in 2016.
If Maryland would have faltered last night, my article’s entire argument would have ultimately collapsed upon itself. I am thankful Turgeon and Co. pulled through.
Turgeon curating a rotation that can jumpstart their production early on in the games would serve as an unbelievable boost to this team going forward into a brutal stretch of their schedule, as they’ll be going on the road to face #16 Ohio State and #6 Michigan State.
Romeo Langford, one of the most intriguing NBA lottery prospects, had a monster night in College Park and went down swinging. The 6’6 freshman guard filled it up for a career-high 28 points, and shot 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. To further improve his team’s chances late into the season, Turgeon will have to gameplan around game-breakers like Langford that they will see in the B1G conference tournament and hopefully the NCAA Tournament
Keep Expectations High, But Not Exponential
There was a time, not so long ago, where Maryland basketball was the next big thing. If names such as Melo Trimble, Robert Carter Jr., Dez Wells, and Diamond Stone ring a bell, you know exactly where I’m going with this. In those “great seasons” which seem very distant today, Maryland was never able to get over the hump. One Sweet 16 appearance for all of that talent was quite underwhelming. Here’s to hoping that won’t happen with this group.
Despite starting a youthful lineup with unfamiliar faces such as Eric Ayala, Ricky Lindo Jr., Aaron Wiggins, and Serrel Smith along with stars Cowan Jr. and Fernando, the Terps seem to have found a rhythm. After starting slow against Rutgers, Minnesota, and Indiana, they found a way to win all of these games. If Maryland can stay this fresh late in games while showing no signs of fatigue, this group will be ready to go for the back half of their B1G conference schedule.
Up until this point, eighth-year coach Mark Turgeon has answered the bell to those who were questioning how long he had left with Maryland. After posting a sub-par 19-13 record last season, Turgeon needed to step up in a big way with an inexperienced core. So far, he has shut the doubters up by leading this inexperienced team to 14-3 with only one close losing effort in West Lafayette, IN. If Turgeon can keep up this success, Maryland and all of College Park will be wholly satisfied with this season.
I’m not saying this team has gotten over the hump, but it sure looks like Mark Turgeon has turned his team around in his deciding years as Head Coach of Maryland Basketball.