Two months ago, I warned readers that it was going to be a long year for Terps' men's basketball.
At the halfway mark, head coach Mark Turgeon and guard Terrell Stoglin -- who leads the ACC with 20.8 points per game -- have somehow navigated the out-of-conference schedule to avoid any bad losses to creampuffs and has led Maryland to a 2-1 record in ACC play.
But despite the Terps' overachieving 12-4 record during a clear rebuilding year, the wins haven't come easy. And they haven't come without practically causing Turgeon to go on a diet of Tums and Pepto-Bismol.
In Maryland's season opener against UNC-Wilmington, the Terps led by 12 points with just under five minutes in the game. Over the next 3 minutes, 40 seconds, the Seahawks went on a 6-0 run to give Maryland a scare. The Terps went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch to secure the win.
In the BB&T Classic, Maryland led Notre Dame by 10 points with 1 minute, 43 seconds left. But the Fighting Irish went on an 8-2 run over the next 35 seconds. Stoglin bailed out the Terps with a clutch jumper and Maryland hung on for the win.
Against a Mount St. Mary's team that had losses of 56 points to Marquette and 29 points to Minnesota, the Terps led by 16 just before halftime. The lead dwindled to 12 points with 13 minutes left in the second half before the Mountaineers went on a 13-1 run over the next five minutes. After Mychal Parker nailed a pair of free throws, Maryland gutted out a three-point win.
Next up was Albany, a team with a 1-6 road record. After leading by 13 late in the first half, Maryland let the Great Danes get back into the game. By half, the lead was just five points. In the second half, both teams traded the lead back and forth. Eventually, the Terps pulled away and won their first game by double digits, thanks in large part due to European center Alex Len's 14-point, eight-rebound, three-block debut.
Against Cornell, the Terps scored the game's first 16 points and led by as many as 23 in the first half. But the Big Red chipped away at the lead to make it just 15 points at the half. An ice-cold Maryland team scored just two points in the first nine minutes of the second half, and Cornell cut the lead to just one point. The Terps led by four points with 30 seconds left, but sank all six free throws down the stretch to win another close one.
Lastly, Maryland led Wake Forest by 18 points with 17 minutes left in the second half before the Demon Deacons went on a 21-6 run over the next eight minutes. The Terps led by four points with 16 points left, but a 9-for-12 performance from the free throw line down the stretch allowed the Terps to escape with a six-point win.
So yesterday's 61-50 win over Georgia Tech was one of Maryland's largest margins of victory this season. That's important for the Terps' psyche as they head into a brutal eight-game stretch that includes road games at Florida State, Temple, Miami, Clemson and Duke and home games against Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Realists maintain that an NCAA Tournament berth is still a long way off for this Maryland team. But winning home games against the ACC's bottom-feeders is a must, particularly in a year where the Terps face Duke and North Carolina twice each -- the only ACC team with that tall task.