Less than 48 hours after a convincing home win over Boston College, the Maryland men's basketball team is back at it this afternoon with a chance to make some waves toward accomplishing its bigger season goals.
The Terrapins have yet another chance to come up with their first significant win when they head to Charlottesville to take on No. 22 Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena.
Maryland (15-10, 5-6 ACC) has won two of its last three games, but is 0-4 against ranked opponents and has just two victories over teams in the top 100 of the latest ratings percentage index. The Terps don't have a horrid loss to their name, and that has helped put them in position to make a postseason run with five regular-season games to go.
Few would've expected that could be possible with all the adversity the team has faced, the latest being starting point guard Pe'Shon Howard's torn ACL.
"Coach said it's the start of a new season and we don't want it to end when the ACC tournament is over," junior forward James Padgett said Thursday night. "We've got to be tough. There's not a lot of basketball left to be played, so you don't want to end your season like that. So get tough, play as hard as you can and go have an aggressive end to the season."
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon claimed to not remember making the "new season" comment specifically, but believes it might've slipped out during a speech on the bus after last Saturday's Duke defeat.
With three ranked foes and three road contests remaining, a spot in a tourney such as the NIT is far from a sure thing, but he wanted to find a way to motivate his team and make the Terps to believe they had a chance without Howard.
"I think when Pe'Shon went down, everybody just thought we'd kind of fold our tent and just wait for next year," Turgeon said. "But these guys aren't going to do that."
The first game without Howard was a struggle, but Maryland followed with a strong showing from Terrell Stoglin and Nick Faust at the point against Boston College. The Terps finished with 15 assists on 28 field goals and just 13 turnovers.
The Cavaliers (19-6, 6-5) are experiencing similar problems to Maryland right now, which could play into the visitors' favor.
Seven-foot senior center Assane Sene is out recovering from ankle surgery and guard Joe Harris, the team's second-leading scorer, is playing through a broken hand. In part because of that, Virginia has lost consecutive games for the first time all season and three of four overall.
The quick turnaround from Thursday's win could pose an additional challenge for the Terps. Padgett said scouting, extra shooting, ice baths and massage are all ways the players can render it a non-issue. Stoglin admitted the team could be a little tired after the late game less than two days earlier.
"We can get it," Stoglin said. "We've just got to take care of our bodies and we'll be fine."
Even with the fatigue, the Cavaliers' struggles could create an opening for the Terps to earn road victory No. 2. Turgeon has spent most of the season saying he isn't focused on wins and losses. But at this stage of the season, with hopes to earn a tourney bid of some sort still alive, he's paying plenty of attention to results.
"I know exactly where we are in the league, I know exactly what our record is," he said Friday. "If we want to have a chance at postseason, we've got to finish strong and win some games and win a road game or two down the stretch just to be in any postseason play.
"I'm aware of it, our guys are aware of it. Before you know it, two seniors' careers are going to be over and I've told the guys before you know it, your career's going to be over. So let's try to make the most of it."