Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin keeps control of the ball as… (Doug Kapustin, Baltimore…)
COLLEGE PARK — Mark Turgeon finally got a chance to do something he has been waiting for in his first season at Maryland. It came late in Saturday's 75-63 win over Samford when Turgeon motioned to the end of his bench for the walk-ons to go in.
Though the final margin wasn't indicative of Maryland's first blowout under Turgeon, the outcome was hardly in doubt. The Terps led by 16 points late in the first half and went ahead as many as 21 in the second half -- the first time they had been up this year by as many as 20 points.
"We really don't know how to play with a lead," Turgeon said later, a wry smile creasing his face. "We have a 10-point lead but for us they feel like two points. Today we had two 20-point leads and we didn't know how to act. Hopefully we'll have a few more leads like that this season."
Said sophomore point guard Terrell Stoglin, who led the Terps with 24 points in only 24 minutes, "It feels good because Coach Turgeon always talks to us about the close wins and how we should be blowing out these teams. It felt good just to have that cushion tonight."
The victory was the sixth straight for Maryland (9-3), which opens its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule a week from Sunday at North Carolina State. The win came a day after Turgeon threw his team out of a morning practice 30 minutes into the session and brought them back for an hour Friday night.
"He told us if we didn't practice we were going to lose today," said Stoglin, who recently nearly lost his starting position because he wasn't committed to playing defense. "We came back that night and had our best practice."
It carried over into the game, as the Terps trailed only once -- at 3-2 with 1:16 gone -- and steadily built their lead as Samford (3-9) started to miss its 3s (making 8 of 27 overall) and found its Princeton-like back-door play closed for easy layups.
"Today we made a big step," Turgeon said. "If we learn how to practice better we can keep taking these steps. Hopefully [kicking his team from practice] will help them realize I won't put up with it. We've got to start practicing better. I have high expectations for this team."
The expectations have been raised with the eligibility of freshman Alex Len. Since the 7-1 center from the Ukraine joined the team after sitting out the first 10 games under NCAA mandate for playing with a professional team last year, the Terps have won by double-digits in both games.
The presence of Len inside opened things up on the perimeter for Stoglin, who hit his first two 3s en route to one of his best shooting performances of the season. Stoglin finished 8 of 13, including 6 of 8 on 3s.
"It seems easier having Pe'Shon [Howard] playing the point right now and having another threat in Alex," Stoglin said.
The Terps made it clear from the outset that they were going to run their offense through Len.
"We wanted to dominate the paint, offensively and defensively, and we wanted to play inside-out," Turgeon said. "The first two possessions were great. We only came up with two points [on free throws by Len].
But that's the way we coach, that's the way we're trying to establish ourselves. If you establish the inside it opens it up for everybody."
Len, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in his impressive debut Wednesday against Albany, finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and one block in 22 minutes. Maryland outrebounded Samford (3-9) 40-22, including a career-high nine for Howard.
It also opened things up for freshman guard Nick Faust (City). After missing 25 of his first 30 behind the 3-point line, Faust made his first three 3s Saturday (before missing one) and finished with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting. He also had four assists, to only one turnover, in 26 minutes, giving him 10 assists to only one turnover in his last three games.
"It was definitely a great thing, a confidence boost," said Faust, who inadventently banked in his first long jumper from straightaway. "I get on myself a little bit about shooting, but you've just to push through it and stay mentally tough."
Said Turgeon, "I'm happy for Nick, he needed that. Nick's been coming early, staying late, working on his shots. He continues to guard. My whole thing is that if guard and rebound and do what they're supposed to do, I'll let 'em maybe shoot one they're not supposed to."
Faust's back-to-back 3s opened up the lead to 20 points, 58-38, with 14:02 remaining.
"I felt like the game was done," Faust said.
It seemed like the first time all season that the crowd sensed that, too. Though Samford eventually cut its deficit to 13 and Turgeon became a little agitated, a drive by Len with a little over two minutes left allowed the Turgeon to relax for the first time as well.
He called for his walk-ons, one of whom, junior Jonathan Thomas of Frederick, scored on a drive.
"The best part of the day was that we got all our walk-ons in. They've been unbelievable in practice every day," Turgeon said. "They practice hard, never say 'Boo.' It meant a lot to everybody in that room that they got in today."