COLLEGE PARK -- Sickened by Thursday’s loss to a Minnesota team that had previously not won a game in conference play, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon had eaten sparingly as Sunday’s game back at home against Michigan approached.
Standing at the podium after his team’s 86-82 victory over the Wolverines in College Park, a relieved coach made a confession.
“I was down as you can be,” he said about the loss earlier this week. “I can’t wait to eat. My stomach’s up here growling.”
Turgeon mood after Thursday’s defeat mirrored that of his team. Junior Damonte Dodd said the plane ride home was difficult. Others said it took time for the team to smile again. But whatever was said and whatever was done, Maryland came out against Michigan looking like a team fighting for its life rather than one ready to lay down after a possibly resume-defining loss.
With the game tied in the first half on Sunday, 12-12, the Terrapins shifted into another gear. Dodd became a shot-blocking machine, rejecting two Michigan shots in two possessions. One led to a Robert Carter, Jr. dunk in transition. The other came on a possession that ended in a Michigan turnover.
An earlier Jake Layman steal had sparked a run-out and transition layup, plus the foul.
The first half featured a stretch of more than seven minutes without a made Michigan field goal and a 14-0 Maryland run that ignited XFINITY Center in a way that proved the Terrapins were here to play.
“We’re fine. We have a lot of confidence in each other. We knew we [were] going to get out of it,” Carter said postgame before making a joke. “You guys don’t have to write anymore stories about us losing.”
Maryland’s hot start allowed it to endure the counterpunch that Michigan eventually threw, which included 13 threes for the game and the forcing of 18 Terrapins turnovers that led to 21 points.
Had the order of events been flipped, perhaps with the Wolverines coming out on fire from deep as opposed to catching fire later in the game, Maryland could have wilted. But they didn’t.
“We wanted to get back to being us and who we are and that would be what we really talked about,” Turgeon said. “Were we desperate? I don’t think so, but we were dialed in.”
Turgeon never labels regular-season games as must-wins, but Sunday was about as close as it gets.
If Maryland had lost, that would mean six days to dwell on it before a tough road matchup against Purdue -- a three-game losing streak that included two home losses and a loss to a sub-200 RPI team before going to West Lafayette to face one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
That is the type of mixture that can derail a season, even for a team full of veterans or mature-beyond-their-years players.