Last-second basketball plays are like life. You plan as best you can, but you never really know what's going to transpire. So, ultimately, you are left to improvise.
That's what Maryland was doing in the final seconds of its loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday while trailing Duke, 68-67.
Coach Mark Turgeon wasn't intending to run a play for forward Charles Mitchell, who is more adept at rebounding than scoring around the basket.
But the opportunity presented itself for Mitchell to get a good shot.
Watch the replay. You’ll see that it was a heady pass from Seth Allen to Mitchell, who was somehow left open under the basket by the Blue Devils with two seconds left. He fumbled the ball when the defense arrived and had his shot blocked out of bounds.
“He bobbled it,” coach Mark Turgeon told reporters. “What a great pass by Seth. I have been all over Seth to pass the ball.”
Mitchell’s second chance came on the inbounds pass from Dez Wells, Maryland’s leading scorer. After throwing the pass, Wells moved away from the basket and was well-guarded by Tyler Thornton. But Mitchell had time and space to operate in the lane on Rodney Hood.
It’s hard to turn down a shot in the lane. Turgeon thought Mitchell's attempt was in. It seemed to lean Maryland’s way on the front rim before falling out.
The Terps have had some miserable road efforts this season – think Ohio State, Pitt, Florida State and the second half against N.C. State. But this was not one of them.
Maryland has played its last two games against teams that haven’t lost at home in the conference all season. The Terps lost at Duke by two points and at Virginia by eight.
It’s too late for moral victories. This is a big-boy league. But if you’re a Terps fan, you have to hope that – even in defeat – this team's performance in the last two games carries meaning.