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STEVE DeSHAZO: Hokies give Terrapins a template for snapping their slump

STEVE DeSHAZO: Hokies give Terrapins a template for snapping their slump

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COLLEGE PARK, Md.-Mike Young considers himself a fan of Mark Turgeon. It must have been heartening for Maryland’s basketball coach to know he had at least one admirer inside Xfinity Center Wednesday night.

A sizeable group of the Terrapins’ notoriously vociferous student section booed Turgeon off the court after a 62-58 loss to Young’s Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That came after a smaller contingent chanted for a coaching change following a second straight loss and third in five games.

“We’re all frustrated,” Turgeon said later. “The standard is high at Maryland, and we had high expectations going into the season.”

If anyone understands that, it’s Young. A week ago, Hokie fans might have been more disgruntled if they hadn’t been obsessing over their football coaching search and retaining the Commonwealth Cup with their almost annual gridiron victory over rival Virginia.

After a 5-0 start, Young’s Hokies lost to ninth-ranked Memphis and No. 25 Xavier in little more than 48 hours in a tournament in Brooklyn. “Desperation” was the term Young originally used.

“You lose a couple with a team that has high hopes and feels pretty good about themselves--desperation might be a little too strong,” Young said. “But you lose two, and that puts a bee in your bonnet. We had to get some things figured out, because we were terrible in Brooklyn.”

The Hokies weren’t fabulous for the first 30 minutes Wednesday night, either. Qudus Wahab, Maryland’s hulking 6-foot-11 center, was having his way in the lane. And Tech’s second field goal of the second half didn’t come until just over 10 minutes remained, when they trailed 40-37.

But the Hokies regrouped and played to their strengths: defense and Keve Aluma.

It’s worth noting that it’s the Hokies, not their rivals in Charlottesville, who lead the ACC in most defensive categories. They lived up to that reputation by holding the Terps without a field goal for nearly nine minutes.

And Aluma, their all-ACC senior forward, took advantage of Wahab’s foul trouble and slow feet to drive past him several times en route to a 17-point, 12-rebound night.

“That’s the mark of a mature team that’s been through tight spots,” Young said. “You don’t panic.”

Turgeon’s Terps should take notes. Unfortunately, while Young has a veteran, cohesive team. Turgeon is trying to integrate transfers Wahab (Georgetown), Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) and Xavier Green (Old Dominion) into his system. Said Turgeon: “We’re a work in progress.”

It hasn’t been smooth. On a night when Maryland honored the late Len Bias’ induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, it was apparent the Terps have no one remotely near that caliber.

Maryland committed 15 turnovers—”against a team that doesn’t pressure,” Turgeon lamented. Russell and his new backcourt mate, Eric Ayala (the Terps’ only returning starter) shot a combined 3 for 19 from the field Wednesday night, and Maryland was 1 for 13 from 3-point range.

The final long-range miss came after Turgeon called timeout with 17 seconds left, trailing 61-58. After some debate about which play to call, the Terps inbounded the ball to Hakim Hart, who rushed a long 3-point attempt that wasn’t close.

“He was wide-open, I thought,” Turgeon explained. “We wanted a quick three or a quick two. He thought he was open, so he shot it.

“That’s where things are. We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of it.”

Young insists Turgeon will, pointing to his record of five top-five finishes in seven seasons in the Big Ten.

“Mark’s gonna be fine,” Young said. “It’s Dec. 1. I remember watching coach Turgeon’s team, which I admire greatly, about this time last year losing to Clemson, and he got grief. They’re gonna get better and better and better.”

Maybe they will. But for the disgruntled Maryland faithful, it can’t come soon enough.

Steve DeShazo: 374-5443


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