COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It was at a Rosemont, Illinois, hotel ballroom in October when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was asked, probably for the first time leading up to the season, whether he was concerned his team might have "too much" talent.
More precisely, Turgeon was asked whether adding former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon might upset the balance of his backcourt.
Fair enough. Not only did Turgeon have one of the nation's premier guards in sophomore Melo Trimble -- whose star turn as a freshman helped engineer the Terrapins' total turnaround in 2014-15 -- but also classmates Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley, both developing talents ready for even larger roles.
"It's a great question when you state it like that," Turgeon said. "But we're on a mission."
And that was proved on Tuesday, when Sulaimon keyed the Terps to a scrappy photo-finish win over renewed rival Georgetown.
Sulaimon's contributions to Maryland's 75-71 victory were timely in every possible sense.
Trimble spent most of the first half trying to find his way, failing to score during the game's first 15 minutes and 19 seconds. The Terps' star point guard -- typically impossible to keep off the free throw line, and an 86 percent shooter when he goes there -- got just four first-half attempts from the stripe and made just one of them. Jake Layman, meanwhile, was even more uncharacteristic, finishing the first half without a make and hoisting a couple of ugly air balls in the process.
Sulaimon, on the other hand, was almost perfect in the first half. He went 3-of-3 from the field for seven points, hitting lethal perimeter jumpers around the margins of Maryland's offense.
Vastly more impressive -- and surprisingly so -- was Sulaimon's passing. There were dump-off dimes to cutting bigs; a steal and alley-oop lob to Robert Carter; one deft little bounce pass to set up Trimble for a 3-pointer; and a two-handed, cross-lane whip to center Michal Cekovsky, which Sulaimon somehow executed despite slipping and falling away from the direction of the pass. There were eight assists in the first half alone.
As Maryland stumbled -- and Georgetown proved much tougher than their shocking opening loss to Radford suggested -- Sulaimon proved the Terps' most reliable playmaking source.
"Rasheed really picked us up," Trimble said.
Trimble and Layman eventually found their footing in the second half. The Hoyas still refused to go away, however.
Georgetown center Bradley Hayes kept finding easy finishes around the rim. Wing Isaac Copeland was as smooth as ever. Freshman Marcus Derrickson was a 3-point threat on offense and an unmovable presence on defense. And D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera seemed to answer every marginal Maryland charge -- and every burst of insanity from the home fans -- with a bucket. With 5:47 to play, Copeland hit a casual jumper, and Georgetown led 61-54. The Xfinity Center got gradually more panicked.
Trimble and Layman would score 10 of the Terps' next 14 points. Sulaimon, for the most part, was quiet. But with just over two minutes to play, the quality Turgeon has most praised in his graduate transfer -- his defense -- was revealed. First, Sulaimon hassled Smith-Rivera out of an isolation on the wing, nearly forcing a turnover (and a fast break) before the ball slipped out of bounds. One possession later, Sulaimon helped force Smith-Rivera into a crucial shot-clock violation.
As Sulaimon walked back up the floor, he waved and screamed at Terps' fans, performing the internationally recognized gesture for "let's go." The response -- to a former Duke Blue Devil, one Maryland fans used to harass with a barrage of pregame texts and phone calls -- was deafening.
"Now that I'm on this side, I can officially say it: They are the best fans in the world," Sulaimon said.
The feeling is sure to be mutual.
A minute later, there was a Trimble drive, a skip pass to Layman, an extra pass out to Sulaimon on the wing and then, just like that, a 71-68 lead. That resulting 3 was Sulaimon's first basket of the second half. It marked Maryland's first lead since the 18:49 mark of the second half. It was the decisive, game-sealing play of the night.
It was also a key step in Sulaimon's redemption arc. The first player ever to be dismissed by Mike Krzyzewski at Duke -- one whose play on the court fizzled out just months before his former teammates won a national title -- had found himself in a critical role in a must-win game in November, fully wrapped in the embrace of hated former rivals.
And so far, so good.
After a close call like that of Tuesday's tilt, Turgeon still has plenty things to worry about: from rebounding to post defense to lineup configurations.
Rasheed Sulaimon is not among them.
"We knew he was going to be fine in these big games," Turgeon said on Tuesday.