Dez Wells on Terps comeback: We fought 'til the end
COLLEGE PARK--There was something different about the way Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon walked into the locker room at halftime of his team’s Wednesday-night matchup against Notre Dame.
He had every reason to be irate if he chose to be. The Terrapins had shot 32 percent from the field, allowed the opposition to shoot close to 60 percent, and turned the ball over eight times through the first 20 minutes.
But that wasn’t what happened. What happened was more a complete flip, a test of reverse psychology from the hard-lined philosophy that had seen Maryland lose back-to-back games by more than 20 points for the first time since 2008.
“We thought he would be, you know, screaming and throwing water bottles around, but he just came in calm,” sophomore center Shaquille Cleare, who finished with seven points, said after the game. “Calm as the sea.”
Turgeon recalls the scene in the locker room.
“I didn’t really know what to say but I walked in there and I said, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to you guys, but we’re not playing the way we’re capable of playing,’” Turgeon remembers. “'We’ll make a pact. We’re just going to have fun.'”
I guess the alternative motivational medicine worked.
Maryland came out of halftime on a tear, ripping off an 18-4 run to turn an abysmal first half into a much-needed 74-66 Terrapin victory over Notre Dame at Comcast Center.
Maryland’s offense was looser and more relaxed over those final 20 minutes, much like players say Turgeon was in that locker room. Charles Mitchell catalyzed the offense with 10 points and seven hard-fought rebounds. Dez Wells took over when he needed to and finished with 17 points.
“At halftime I said, ‘Dez, you’ve got to play better. You have to. Relax, have fun, and play better,’” Turgeon said. “And he did. And he became a big boy. He bullied them a couple times.”
Perhaps it reveals the approach that is needed with a team like this.
There has been criticism about substitution patterns and the merits of a meritocracy, whether the threat of getting pulled is a motivator or nothing more than an easy way to get players to be tightly wound and play unnaturally.
But it wasn’t just his players who let loose in the second half. Turgeon too was more animated, jumping up and down on the sidelines as the wave of the comeback swelled and the crowd at Comcast Center grew more and more alive.
“You have that self-evaluation,” Turgeon said. “I don’t like making a fool out of myself but I thought I had to tonight to get everybody involved and we ... had to work so hard to get the lead and then wanted our guys to play with energy so that’s why I acted that way.”
Is this the start of a looser, more free Maryland team? Monday on the road at NC State we might just find out.