After their 61-58 overtime victory, it is the Cavaliers — not the Terps — who are positioned for an NCAA tournament berth. It is Virginia that will boast that it didn’t lose an Atlantic Coast Conference game all season at John Paul Jones Arena and has won 17 straight at home.
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Now the Cavaliers can also lay claim to its biggest comeback — they trailed Maryland by 17 points in the first half — since 2006 and the fifth biggest in the program’s history.
The game reinforced a message that has been slowly seeping into Maryland fans’ psyches in recent weeks: it’s not Maryland’s time. At least not yet.
The Terps often wear blank expressions these days after defeats. After having lofty expectations earlier in the season, they seem slightly dazed at losing.
“I’m proud of our effort — hate coming up short,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “If we had played with this kind of effort [in a loss to North Carolina] on Wednesday, we might have had a different outcome.”
The Cavaliers sent the contest into overtime on an inside basket by Mike Tobey with five seconds left. Rather than play Tobey straight up, the Terps appeared to gamble defensively by going for a steal “that let him in for a layup — not very smart,” Turgeon said.
It was Tobey’s put-back with 1:47 left in the extra period that put the Cavaliers ahead for good, 60-58.
After that, Maryland missed several chances to tie, turning the ball over twice. Virginia’s lead was 61-58 when Dez Wells (12 points, 12 rebounds) had a good look at a 3-pointer in the game’s final second.
“It was in and out. I just knew it was going in,” Wells said. “You have games like that, you have shots like that. You have to move on. As long as our guys play hard, that’s all I care about.”
Wells earlier had made a big shot in regulation — a floater in the lane to put the Terps ahead, 54-52, with 23 seconds left. Maryland missed a chance to win at the end of regulation when Pe’Shon Howard’s shot was blocked by Justin Anderson, who had five blocks in the game.
Nick Faust led Maryland with 15 points.
The defeat showed the Terps are still intent on playing hard even after their NCAA tournament hopes have all but vanished. But the loss clearly stung. Maryland (20-11, 8-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) has now lost five straight games to Virginia and missed a chance to finish .500 in ACC play.
With the win, Virginia (21-10, 11-7) will get a first-round bye in the ACC tournament that begins Thursday and will be seeded fourth.
Early in Sunday’s game, Maryland was effectively using an inside-out strategy in rolling to a 17-point, first-half lead. The Terps would toss the ball in to center Alex Len, who was passing to open shooters when he was double-teamed. Len had fouled out of the teams’ first meeting this season, an 11-point Virginia win.
Len scored 10 points Sunday night. But he shot just 2-for-9, including an air ball, and he had a shot blocked.
Maryland held Virginia star Joe Harris to 4-for-18 shooting (15 points). But Harris hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game. “I don’t know when the last time I had a night like that was,” Harris said.
Turgeon has long said his goal this season is for the Terps to improve. Maryland’s top players are sophomores and freshmen.
Turgeon said Sunday’s game seemed to demonstrate progress. But it also clearly represented a missed opportunity.
“We needed a quality road win to put in the bank for the summer,” the coach said.