Mark Turgeon knows. Oh, how he knows. And it didn't take him long to learn.
The annual game of great significance is (was?) Duke's visit to Comcast Center. The second-year Maryland coach heard about it his first few months on the job, found out in person last season when a sellout crowd buoyed his mediocre team on a predictably doomed night against the Blue Devils and knew precisely what was coming Saturday.
The Terrapins' season didn't entirely hang in the balance, but it came close. They --- and Turgeon especially --- had a week to stew over the sluggishness and slights, the stupor and stinging comments stemming from an ugly loss to Virginia.
If one win, one game could fix some of it, surely it was with Duke coming to town.
An 83-81 upset in frenzied College Park --- from the periphery of campus down to Route 1 --- provided assurance something could be salvaged from an inexperienced team hovering around .500 in the ACC.
"I know what it means to our fanbase," Turgeon said. "I wanted to beat Duke. I wanted to beat Duke. This means a lot to me. I talk about it in the summer: 'God, if we beat Duke, I’m going to be in the student section. I’m going to be hanging out with the students.'"
Well, the students came to hang out with him, their second incursion onto the Comcast Center court in the last month.
This one was a bit more spontaneous than last month's celebration after a defeat of N.C. State, Saturday's victory secured only after Seth Allen made two free throws with 2.8 seconds left and Duke's Quinn Cook missed a 23-footer off the rim as time expired. This one was thoroughly understandable, an upset of a top-five team perhaps making its final trip to College Park in a long while.
And it was a bit of a personal vindication for Turgeon who, 52 games into his tenure as Gary Williams' successor, found himself absorbing vitriol from cranky patrons on Sunday after Maryland's last game.
"I take a lot of pride in my coaching," Turgeon said while holding back tears. "I don’t do a lot of things well, but I’d like to think I can coach a little bit. And I haven’t done a very good job. It’s been a hard week on my family. It was hard on my son. Last week he had to leave the gym, because the fans were so hard on his dad. This was for them. I got a loyal family. Very loyal to me."
Turgeon wasn't a worse coach because of the lackluster loss to Virginia. And he frankly isn't a better coach for getting the best of Duke for the first time in four meetings at Maryland.
Yet he does find himself at the helm --- the true captain of a team just stripped of its captains --- of a team infused with additional life.
Saturday was no masterpiece, 26 turnovers a testament to Maryland (18-7, 6-6 ACC) finding ample opportunities to make matters difficult. Yet the Terps denied Duke from the outside until the final two minutes, Alex Len massively outplayed Mason Plumlee in the paint and the Blue Devils did little to collect second chances on offense.
But it was something for a team vastly in need of anything to distinguish itself and avert eyes from its poison pill of a nonconference schedule, something to savor and carry forward.
One game, though, doesn't always suggest a shift. Maryland played 24 games before Saturday, etched out its own personality and track record over that time.
Perhaps that's why the Terps wisely didn't care to look at knocking off Duke as a definitive moment.
"It can be," Padgett said. "We’re not content. We have to continue to get better. We’re moving forward and hopefully we can continue to get wins in the ACC."
Added guard Nick Faust: "There’s definitely still a lot of room. It’s a good win. It’s just another win."
That's a mature outlook for a team not known for its maturity either on the floor (the turnovers say hello) or off (Pe'Shon Howard's "temporary suspension" that had him away from the victory and ensuing celebration come to mind). It's also necessary.
Maryland still has plenty of work in front of it, including a looming two-week stretch against second-division teams. There is little long-term reward in beating Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest (though with all but Clemson on the road, that facet of the Terps' profile can improve). There is great danger in losing to any of those teams, all of which reside outside the top 100 of the RPI.
So what, ultimately, did Saturday mean? For a night, it was a reason to party. But there's no telling how much it will matter one month from now as Maryland awaits its postseason fate.
Not yet anyway.
"It’s time for us to step up, act like we’re one of the big guys on the block," Turgeon said. "Obviously we’re not. We’re only 6-6 in the league. But we beat a really good team tonight. Is it a breakthrough win? We’ll see."
--- Patrick Stevens