That was another heart-breaking loss for the Maryland Terps last night, 61-58 in overtime on the road to a Virginia team that clawed back from 17 points and is not great -- and far less than great if senior star Joe Harris is shooting as horribly (4-for-18 from the field) as he did against the Terps.
But what coach Mark Turgeon and his players need to take from this one is how good the Terps can play when they come out with energy and attack the basket.
That's what the Terps did in the first half to jump out to that big lead. They seemed to have fresh legs and their intensity put the Cavaliers back on the heels from the get-go.
Sophomore big man Alex Len wasn't exactly Tim Duncan again -- he finished with 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting and again looked lost on certain shots. But when the Virginia defense collapsed on him, he was finding open shooters and the Terps were able to knock down shots.
Their energy on defense was outstanding, too. We've all been critical of how sloppy Pe'Shon Howard has played at point guard this season. But when the kid makes up his mind to play defense, he makes the Terps look so much better -- when he isn't picking up a stupid technical foul as he did last night.
Turgeon was dissapointed with the loss, of course. It killed Maryland's last realistic chance to get into the NCAA Tournament, unless you're a dreamer who thinks the Terps can run the table in the ACC Tournament this weekend.
But he seemed to find hope in the way the Terps played in the first half. In many ways, it looked like a completely different Maryland team -- a loose, free-wheeling bunch that took the game right to the Cavaliers.
"I'm proud of our effort -- hate coming up short," Turgeon said. "If we had played with this kind of effort (against North Carolina) on Wednesday, we might have had a different outcome."
Sure, blowing the 17-point lead hurts. It kills Turgeon. And it's all Maryland fans are talking about today.
But with a young team like this, Turgeon needs to emphasize the positives whenever he can.
And for most of that first half, Maryland played what was probably its best ball of the season.