Juwan Howard was none too pleased.
In the second half of the Michigan men’s basketball team’s 79-66 Big Ten quarterfinal win over Maryland, as a ball careened off the hands of Terrapin forward Galin Smith, the referee signaled that the ball went off the hands of a Wolverine player last. Furious, Howard let the referees know it, walking out from the sideline to voice his opinion.
As he approached the referees, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon charged at him.
“He said to me, ‘Juwan I’m not gonna let you talk to me. You don’t talk to me ever again,’ ” Howard said. “And he charged at me. And that right there, I don’t know how you guys were raised but how I was raised by my grandmother and also by Chicago, I was raised by Chicago, I grew up on the South Side, when guys charge you, it’s time to defend yourself. And especially when a grown man charges you. That right there, I went into defense mode.”
Turgeon wove a different tale with his explanation during a postgame interview.
“(I was) standing up for myself, 34 years of doing it the right way, and for Maryland basketball,” Turgeon said. “So that’s all I did, just stood up for myself and my program and said, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ And that escalated.”
As Howard and Turgeon were separated, each side were issued technical fouls, with Howard receiving two and being ejected from the game. As Howard exited through the tunnel, Michigan assistant coach Phil Martelli stepped in.
“At the end of the day, I want to first apologize to my team, which I did in the locker room for my actions,” Howard said. “That’s not the way you handle situations like that in adverse moments, can’t let your emotions get the best of you.”
The Terrapins strung together a quick 5-0 scoring spurt to cut Michigan’s lead to five with nine minutes to play. Without Howard patrolling the sidelines, it appeared that his absence may prove to be the Wolverines’ undoing.
Following an offensive rebound, graduate guard Mike Smith found senior guard Eli Brooks in the corner for a 3-pointer. One possession later, he found him again on a backdoor cut. On the next trip down, sophomore wing Franz Wagner hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cap an 8-0 run and draw a timeout from Turgeon.
From there, Michigan went into cruise control. As the final buzzer sounded, the Wolverines celebrated a win to advance to the Big Ten semifinals without their leader.
They made sure to let Howard know they won it for him.
“I love how our guys stepped up and supported their coach,” Howard said. “Because they know that I’ll always support them.”