COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Two months and 15 games into the college basketball season, Maryland is finally living up to the lofty expectations of its fans and coach Mark Turgeon.
In their 77-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Terrapins had four players score in double figures. They had 16 assists compared with only six turnovers, and nine players received significant playing time.
Most importantly, Maryland never trailed while launching the home portion of its final trip through the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It’s what we envisioned,” Turgeon said. “We’re getting more confidence, there’s no doubt about it.”
Nick Faust scored 16, Evan Smotrycz contributed 14 points, Dez Well added 11 and Charles Mitchell collected 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (10-5, 2-0).
“Obviously, I’m really pleased with the way we played,” Turgeon said. “We just continue to get a little bit better. I can talk about a lot of things that went well. … For the most part, we really defended and I thought our execution was better than it’s been all year. So, we’re getting there.”
In defeating Georgia Tech for the seventh-straight time at home, Maryland built a double-digit lead in the opening four minutes, upped the margin to 20 early in the second half and coasted to the finish.
Just last month, the Terrapins lost to Boston University at home and struggled to defeat Florida Atlantic. But the return of guard Seth Allen, who missed the beginning of the season with a broken foot, has been a huge difference-maker.
“We can put in a lot of different players at once,” Faust said. “Having him back and us growing as a team is why we’re playing so well.”
This is Maryland’s last season in the ACC before moving to the Big Ten. With the win, the Terrapins improved to 36-36 against the Yellow Jackets in ACC play.
“I really think we’re growing up as a team,” sophomore center Shaquille Cleare said. “We’re showing everyone that we can play with poise and we can really defend if we put our minds to it.”
Marcus Georges-Hunt led Georgia Tech (9-5, 0-1) with 11 points. The Yellow Jackets have lost eight-straight ACC openers and haven’t started league play with a victory since winning at Maryland in 1993.
“We didn’t play well as a team. We didn’t defend well,” said guard Trae Golden, who scored 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
Georgia Tech was without the ACC’s leading rebounder, Robert Carter Jr., who started 44-straight games before sustaining a meniscus tear in his left knee against Charlotte last Sunday.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Golden said. “He’s a big part of our team. We just have to prepare.”
Up by 14 at halftime, Maryland used a three-point plays by Cleare and Roddy Peters to make it 49-29 early in the second half. After the Yellow Jackets closed to 56-44, Faust drilled a 3-pointer, Cleare sank a jumper and Allen connected from long range to make it 64-44 with 8:41 left.
Georgia Tech never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
“Defensively, they did a good job on us, and we weren’t as good defensively as you need to be on the road,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. “I think you’re starting to see the Maryland team that was projected early in the year, with multiple players that can really hurt you offensively. And I think they’re a team that’s only going to keep getting better.”
Turgeon can only hope for exactly that.
“We haven’t conquered the world or anything like that, but we’re playing better, which is a good feeling,” he said.
Maryland went 7 for 12 from beyond the arc and got nine points apiece from Smotrycz and Faust in grabbing a 43-29 halftime lead.
The Terrapins took control at the outset, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Jake Layman in a game-opening 15-4 run.
“It was huge, because the game was pretty even after that,” Turgeon said. “I think everybody in the building was like, `OK, this is what we expected all year from Maryland.’ It was just good to see.”
It was 24-13 before Georgia Tech sandwiched a layup by Stacey Poole Jr. and a 3-pointer by Jason Morris around a Maryland free throw to make it 25-18.
After a runner in the lane by Daniel Miller got the Yellow Jackets to 27-22, Faust drilled a pair of long-range jumpers in a 13-4 burst that increased the margin to 14.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)