Leading up to Maryland’s game against Stony Brook, coach Mark Turgeon was worried.
Coming off a nine-day break from games in which his team was preoccupied with final exams and facing a “really good” Stony Brook team that should compete for the America East conference title this season, Maryland had plenty of reasons to come out flat and let the Seawolves keep the game close.
But the Terps were quick to dispel Turgeon’s concerns – until the second half, at least.
Maryland used a quick start and a dominant showing on offense in the first half to overcome a weak showing in the second half and top the Seawolves, 76-69, in front of 10,721 inside Comcast Center.
“I’ll take a lot of positives out of this game,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes when it starts to go the other way, it’s hard to stop it. We couldn’t stop it for a long time, but give them credit. They’re good. They’re going to win a lot of games.”
Despite Turgeon’s fear that the Terps (10-1) would come out in a lull against Stony Brook (8-3), Maryland took an early 9-2 lead and extended it to a 22-10 advantage before taking a 45-32 score into halftime. The Terps made their first five shots from the floor – and 15 of their first 20 – and shot 4-for-5 from 3-point range to start the game.
At halftime, holding a 13-point lead, Maryland had already posted a shooting percentage of 64.3 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from beyond the arc.
“Our big emphasis was starting practices off better. We’ve been starting sluggish,” guard Pe’Shon Howard said. “The last week or so we’ve been starting off really well in practice. I think it carried over to the game today.”
“In the first half, up until about the three-minute mark, we looked like a well-oiled machine, which is good to see,” Turgeon added.
The lull Turgeon had feared came in the second half, though.
After an 11-4 run to start the final 20 minutes of action, and taking a 20-point lead at 56-36, Maryland allowed Stony Brook to keep it close, down to the game’s final minute. The Terps couldn’t pull away from the Seawolves, who came within two points at 71-69 with 30 seconds left in regulation.
But clutch free throws from Howard, Nick Faust and Dez Wells late allowed Maryland to hold on for the win.
“I thought the game got physical and we didn’t handle it very well,” Turgeon said of the second half. “We couldn’t score around the basket, couldn’t get second chance points and then they started to make some shots and get confidence. Give them credit. They never quit. I always felt like we were going to pull away and win by double figures.
“I think we could have stemmed the tide if we had a 3-point play or got to the foul line. Instead it was a missed layup and they went down to score. If we could have stemmed the tide, kept it at 12, 13, 14, 15, everything would have been fine. But they’re good. There’s a reason they were picked to win their league.”
Dez Wells and Alex Len led Maryland with 19 points apiece and also grabbed six and nine rebounds, respectively. Nick Faust finished with seven points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Howard scored eight points and dished out seven helpers.
Still, Stony Brook was able to keep it close behind contributions from Jameel Warney (17 points), Eric McAlister (12 points) and Tommy Brenton (nine points, nine assists and eight rebounds).
“Really pleased with the win,” Turgeon said. “We beat a really good team. I think you guys could see that. Now you know that I’m not full of it. I was saying they were a good team. For us to be up 20 on that team shows you that we did a lot of things right to get there.”
With the victory, the Terps won their 10th straight game since losing the season opener to Kentucky, 72-69. It’s the Terps’ longest winning streak since claiming 13 in a row in 2001-02 and the team’s 11th double-digit win streak in program history.
And as the Terps head into their holiday break, it’s a place Turgeon is pleased to be.
“Sitting around last summer, if you would had told me we would be 10-1 at Christmas break, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Turgeon said. “We’re 10-1. We’re getting better. We’re learning while we continue to win.”
NOTE: John Auslander, who fractured his left tibia last week in practice, had season-ending surgery earlier in the day Friday. The former walk-on who has since earned a scholarship will now go through a 12-week recovery period.
“Things went great with surgery,” Turgeon said at the end of his postgame press conference.