As Maryland rolled to a 17-point, first-half lead against Virginia on Sunday night, I found myself thinking, “Is 17 going to be enough?”
Everyone in the building knew the Cavaliers were going to make a run. Consider what Virginia was playing for:
-- The Cavs believed they needed the win for their NCAA tournament resume.
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-- They hoped to close out an unbeaten record against ACC opponents at home.
-- They wanted to secure a first-round bye in the ACC tournament and win on Senior Night.
And Maryland? They were playing for pride and respect and dignity.
“We needed a quality road win to put in the bank for the summer,” coach Mark Turgeon said.
Turgeon’s comment is interesting. It shows that Maryland has its sights set not only on this year but on the future, which it hopes and believes will be brighter than now. This season feels all but over for the Terps, who would draw a second-round matchup with Ryan Kelly and Duke in the ACC tournament if Maryland wins its opener against Wake Forest on Thursday night.
Sure, Maryland beat Duke at Comcast Center this season. But the Blue Devils now have Ryan Kelly back, adding a new dimension and making them very hard to defend. They are looming in front of Maryland's season like a giant bowling pin that the Terps would be hard-pressed to knock down.
Give Maryland some credit for Sunday night. Even without the tangible incentive that Virginia had, the Terps played with intensity in a venue in which no road team has won since November.
Nick Faust and Dez Wells had some big moments, and the Terps held Joe Harris to 5-for-18 from the floor.
The Terps could not solve crunch time, though. Leading by two with five seconds left in regulation, they surrendered an inside basket to Mike Tobey, who was Virginia’s third option on the play.
“I’m 99 percent sure of what happened,” Turgeon said. “We didn’t want [Joe] Harris to catch it. Jake Layman did a great job because he didn’t catch it. They threw it in, my guy tried to steal it, and let [Mike Tobey] in for a layup – not very smart.”
On the other end, Pe’Shon Howard went nowhere with the game tied at 54 and a chance for Maryland to win at the end of regulation. The John Paul Jones Arena crowd breathed a big sigh of relief.