COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Terrapins’ final season in the Atlantic Coast Conference promises to be a difficult one. Before they move to the Big Ten next year, Maryland must play at longtime rivals North Carolina and Duke without a return visit.
The Terrapins’ nonconference schedule came to an end on Tuesday with a 70-56 win over North Carolina Central, and it was one that pleased coach Mark Turgeon.
“Most complete game we’ve played,” Turgeon said.
Maryland (9-5) lost to Connecticut, Oregon State, Ohio State, local rival George Washington — and on Dec. 21 to Boston University, a defeat that gnaws at Turgeon.
Turgeon praised his team for holding the country’s third-leading scorer, Jeremy Ingram, to 11 points on 4-for-19 shooting from the field. He said the good defense has him feeling optimistic as the Terps resume ACC play.
“I like it a lot better today than I did 10 days ago, I’ll say that. We’ve got such a tough schedule, and a good schedule, ahead of us, that it’s in our control,” Turgeon said.
NC Central (7-4) was outrebounded by Maryland 43-28, and while Turgeon praised the defense that Nick Faust played on Ingram, Eagles coach LeVelle Moton, said it wasn’t just that.
“I don’t want to discredit them, when a guy misses shots, you’ve got to give the other team credit, but I’ve also seen Jeremy make a lot of those shots too. When he misses free throws, it’s not their defense. That’s on him,” Moton said.
Ingram was averaging nearly 25 points.
“He missed a couple of open looks, but that’s just going to happen. He has to remain locked-in and not see himself just as a scorer but as the leader of this basketball team,” Moton said.
Faust equaled a career high with 19 points and had a season-high nine rebounds. The junior guard has come off the bench for the last six games, a role that seems to be helping.
“I did a great job coming in and boosting the team with energy and defending, and it rubbed off on offense,” Faust said.
“Coach just emphasized a lot just locking in on their leading scorer, doing what we can to alter shots and just defend him really well and slow him down and things like that.”
Maryland began the second half with three 3-pointers, one by Seth Allen, and two by Faust, who scored 14 of his 19 after halftime.
The trio of 3-pointers gave the Terrapins a 37-26 lead with 16:47 to play.
The Eagles, who lost by 11 to No. 8 Wichita State on Dec. 21, were just 2-for-15 from the 3-point line. They were averaging nearly 34 percent before the game. Ingram missed all six of his 3-pointers.
Dez Wells added 10 for the Terps, who extended their lead to 68-45 on Faust’s 3-pointer with 3:20 to play. NC Central outscored Maryland 11-2 in the final minutes.
Wells was especially pleased with the effort on Ingram.
“With good scorers, you’re not going to be able to stop them on every single play. But as long as their shots are very tough, and they use a lot of energy on defense and on offense to get their shots off, then that’s a win for us,” Wells said.
“We try to stop every good scorer. Some games you’re more successful than others.”
Each team missed its first four shots before NC Central’s Jay Copeland scored on a layup 3:12 into the game. At the first timeout, the Eagles led 4-2.
Maryland led through much of the first half, but NC Central went ahead 16-14 on Ingram’s layup with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
The Terps scored the next seven points to take a 21-14 lead with four minutes remaining, holding the Eagles scoreless for 4:11.
Maryland outscored NC Central 14-4 in the last eight minutes to lead 28-20 at the half.
The Eagles biggest win came on Nov. 20 when they beat NC State by 10, the first time they’ve beaten an ACC team.
NC Central begins Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play on Jan. 11 at Florida A&M. Maryland won at Boston College on Dec. 12 in its ACC opener and resumes conference play on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)