The Maryland men’s basketball team is 7-1 on the road this season, including 6-1 in Big Ten play, success away from Xfinity Center that can be at least partly attributed to Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins’ coaching staff keeping things relaxed the day before games. In recent weeks, Turgeon’s half-court shot at the end of shoot-arounds on the road has become one of the sweeter traditions in college basketball.
“We started shooting half-court shots on the road in the first league game, which would’ve been Michigan,” Turgeon said in a phone interview on Friday. “Each guy shoots three and we see how many we can make. Then, it was the Minnesota game and somebody texted me or tweeted me and said it was National Chocolate Cake Day. After all the guys shot, I said, ‘Hey, it’s National Chocolate Cake Day. If I make this shot, everybody gets a piece of chocolate cake.’ The guys were chanting, ‘Chocolate cake!’ and I missed it.”
The Terps didn’t get chocolate cake, but they did beat Minnesota. Maryland’s next road game was three days later at Ohio State and players were still craving coach-approved chocolate cake, as sweets aren’t typically a part of their in-season diets.
“We shot our half-court shots and the guys started chanting, ‘Chocolate cake!'” Turgeon said. “I shot it and I made it, and it’s kind of taken off from there.”
Maryland tweeted video of players screaming and mobbing Turgeon after he drained his two-handed push shot, a technique he perfected while playing for Larry Brown at Kansas.
“It’s actually easier to shoot it straight and control the distance,” said Turgeon, who made good on his promise a couple of days later, when he brought a chocolate cake that his wife had bought for his team to enjoy after practice.
Turgeon missed his half-court attempt ahead of Maryland’s loss at Penn State on Feb. 7, but the tradition continued Wednesday with the Terps in Evanston, Ill. to play Northwestern. After Turgeon made the shot, players formed a circle around their coach and started jumping up and down, chanting … cheesecake?
“Penn State was National Brownie Day, which I made up,” Turgeon said. “Then we went to Northwestern and it was National Cheesecake Day, which I also made up, and I made it, so I’m 2 for 4.”
(There is, of course, a National Brownie Day, but it’s Dec. 8. National Cheesecake Day isn’t until July 30.)
Turgeon said he’s planning to give his team cheesecake for dessert on Saturday, the day before No. 23 Maryland takes on No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison.
“We don’t [normally] do sugar with the team,” Turgeon said. “Not in front of [Maryland director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp], at least. He’ll fight me on it, but I made a half-court shot, which isn’t easy to do, so we’ll give them a little sliver of cheesecake.”
Turgeon has already decided what dessert will be on the line when he attempts his half-court shot ahead of the game against the Badgers.
“Chocolate chip cookie,” he said.