As the Terrapins men’s basketball team began to trim George Washington’s 14-point lead in the final six minutes of Sunday’s game in the BB&T Classic, guard Dez Wells was relegated to the bench.
The Terps’ unquestioned leader and last season’s leading scorer fouled out with 6:09 to play, causing coach Mark Turgeon to turn over the offense to guard Roddy Peters. With the freshman controlling the point and Wells on the sideline, the Terps finished the game on a 21-9 run and tied the score at 73 with 1:07 to play after trailing the entire second half.
Though George Washington’s Maurice Creek hit a game-winning shot to give the Colonials a 77-75 victory, Turgeon was impressed with his team’s furious comeback. And Peters’ play on both ends of the floor was at the heart of it.
The 6-foot-3 freshman had two of his three steals while the Terps stormed back in the game’s final five minutes, and he often sliced through the Colonials defense to get to the rim. Peters scored seven points in the final 4:09.
“They went zone and we had one less shooter on the floor so they didn’t guard Roddy, so he kept trying to make plays,” Turgeon said. “I thought he did some nice things. I thought defensively he had the big steal there in the half-court, and he had the steal in the press.”
Peters finished with a career-high 11 points — nine in the second half — and he cut back on his turnovers after a shaky outing in a loss to then-No. 3 Ohio State. The Suitland native coughed the ball up five times in Columbus, Ohio, but committed two turnovers against George Washington.
Still, Turgeon was a bit upset that Peters threw a risky pass to forward Jake Layman with less than three minutes left. A Colonials defender deflected the ball, and it then smacked off Layman’s face and went out of bounds.
“That was a big turnover at the time,” Turgeon said. “We were down two, then they go up four again. But he did make some nice plays.”
Overall, Turgeon appeared pleased with Peters’ performance. The first-year floor general keyed an impressive late surge without the Terps’ go-to scorer in the game, and perhaps he’s made a case to see the floor more often down the stretch of close games.
“To do that without Dez is a good sign,” Turgeon said. “Roddy gave us good minutes.”
Turgeon had a hunch what play George Washington would run coming out of a timeout with 8.1 seconds left and the score tied at 75. Creek had 23 points up that point and was 5-of-10 from the field, so the third-year coach suspected the Colonials would try to free up the senior guard.
George Washington did just that, isolating Creek at the top of the key, but the Terps still couldn’t stop him. Creek took several dribbles to his left, stepped back to just inside the free-throw line and nailed a jumper over guard Nick Faust’s outstretched arm. The bucket fell through the net with 0.6 seconds remaining to give Creek 25 points on the night and the Colonials a victory.
“We knew what they were going to do, and I didn’t do a very good job,” Turgeon said. “We should have ran at [Creek] and doubled him.”
Turgeon mentioned he had aimed to get Peters in position to double-team Creek, but it didn’t work.
“I was trying to get him to come off [guard Kethan] Savage and double him,” Turgeon said. “But I couldn’t get Roddy’s attention.”
Without a double-team coming, Faust was left to guard Creek one-on-one. The junior slipped slightly when Creek made his step-back move but still got a hand up to contest the shot. Creek wasn’t fazed, though.
“I thought it was short when he shot it,” Turgeon said. “But it swished. Big-time shot for him.”
The Terps’ stumble against the Colonials on Sunday dropped their record to 5-4, the program’s worst mark through nine games since the 1986-87 season. The team finished that season 9-17 and 0-14 in the ACC under first-year coach Bob Wade.
Former Terps coach Gary Williams never lost four of the first nine games in any of his 22 seasons at the helm of the program.
Three of the Terps’ four losses, though, have come by a combined 10 points and the team has already played six games away from Comcast Center. It’s the first time the Terps have played six of their first nine games on the road or at a neutral site since the 1968-69 season. They’ll play their third straight game away from home when they travel to Boston College tomorrow to open ACC play for their final season in the conference after 60 years.
And despite some early struggles, the Terps appear confident as they head to Massachusetts for the conference opener. Forward Jonathan Graham said after the narrow loss to the Colonials that the Terps “could be a great team.”
“We can’t hang our heads,” Graham said. “We have to come back to the next day in practice and get better. We have to prepare because we start ACC soon and we have a good team we are going to play.”