COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK - Crazy circumstances are usually the right time to ask ridiculous questions, so here goes: Has the Maryland men's basketball team fallen so far that it doesn't even have the right to call itself the best college basketball team in the state?
Because right now, that honor belongs to Morgan State.
And yes, you read that correctly.
Dispute it all you like, but the facts speak for themselves, at least after last night. Morgan State pulled off what will probably go down as the biggest upset in school history by going into Comcast Center and knocking off Maryland,66-65.
It was one of those nights when you almost had to see it to believe it, and even in person, it seemed sort of surreal. If you woke up this morning and saw the result on the electronic ticker at the bottom of your television screen, you would almost certainly think it was a mistake.
But it wasn't. Morgan State really did walk into Maryland's arena and swagger home a winner. The fact that it happened is both a testament to how much the Bears (6-8) have improved under third-year coach Todd Bozeman and how much Maryland (11-3) has struggled the past few seasons to rebuild its program.
The Bears pulled it off by hitting timely shots and crashing the glass at every opportunity, sometimes with three or four players. Reggie Holmes, a St. Frances graduate who grew up in Baltimore rooting for the Terps, scored 25 points and hit five three-pointers to lead the Bears to the upset. His final three, which came with 49 seconds left, was the knockout punch.
"I've been watching Maryland all my life," Holmes said. "It means a lot to finally beat them. I can tell my son someday that I beat Maryland. It feels good."
The night was gloomy for the Terps in more ways than one. The crummy weather and the challenge of facing an unranked, nonconference opponent with a losing record didn't seem to interest many Maryland fans, and when the game tipped off, Comcast Center was more than half empty. There was little, if any, energy for the home team to feed on, whereas Morgan State brought a small but boisterous contingent of supporters.
The crowd, though, had less to do with the result than Morgan State's calm demeanor. Maryland went on an 18-2 run early in the second half that probably should have put the Bears away. But Bozeman's team kept clawing back every time Maryland scored. When Bozeman picked up a technical during Maryland's big run for arguing with the referees, it inspired his players instead of deflating them.
"I've never seen a person from the crowd make a bucket or block a shot," Bozeman said. "If you travel around and play on the playgrounds growing up, like all our guys do, you're not going to be playing in front of your own people. You learn how to deal with that. So I don't think that played a part at all."
The inability to finish plays was a bigger problem for the Terps than any lack of fan enthusiasm. Maryland started the game well, pushing the ball in transition and getting behind the Bears for easy layups. Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne each slipped behind Morgan State's defense twice early as the Terps opened a 15-9 lead. But those were the last easy baskets the home team would get for the rest of the half.
The Bears kept the game close by crashing the offensive glass, something Gary Williams warned his players about in the days leading up to the game. Marquise Kately came off Morgan's bench to score 10 first-half points, Rogers Barnes added 11 in the game and Kevin Thompson had 13 rebounds.
Holmes, though, looked like the best player on either team with the way he kept making open shots, leaving Williams red-faced and snarling at his team's lack of fire.
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland's leading scorer at 18.0 points per game, ended up with 19 points, but it came on just 5-for-21 shooting. He missed a running one-handed floater with three seconds left that sealed the Terps' fate.
"I just didn't get the message across well enough how hard this was going to be," Williams said. "We just couldn't execute our offense, and we paid the price. They made a lot of good shots. Give them a lot of credit."
Neal, the Terps' lone senior, scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Neal - whom Williams praised earlier in the week for his unconventional "YMCA" offensive moves - made a handful of jump hooks, wrestled away loose balls and helped lead the Terps to a 54-40 advantage with 12:34 left.
But no one, including Neal, played strong defense, and Morgan State refused to go away.
"I think Morgan State, for a lot of the game, outworked us, and that just can't happen," Neal said. "I think we had a little bit of a lapse, especially at the end of the game, when we didn't come out and play as hard as we should have. I guess we have to learn from this."
The Bears shot just 39.1 percent from the field, but they grabbed almost every important offensive rebound and leaned on Holmes.
Four of Holmes' five threes came in the second half, including the one with 49 seconds left. When he made that shot - slipping away from Vasquez with a pump fake - he wagged his finger, stuck out his tongue and grinned with unabashed joy as he backpedaled up the court.
"That was when I knew we had it, right there," Holmes said.
Bozeman, who looked ecstatic but emotionally drained after the game, acknowledged that this was probably the biggest victory in Morgan State history. The Bears beat DePaul this season, but the fact that this victory came against the local Atlantic Coast Conference school and a former national champion made it that much sweeter.
"The players take a lot from me, so I want them to enjoy this tonight," Bozeman said.
PLAY IT AGAIN
Keys to the game
Maryland went on a 19-3 run that put the Terps ahead 55-41. But Morgan State responded with a 19-4 run of its own that included three three-pointers by Reggie Holmes (St. Frances). The Terps made 12 of 15 free throws and out-rebounded the Bears 51-46, but Maryland made just one of 14 three-point attempts.
Did you notice?
* Morgan State left Eric Hayes open, daring him to hit shots from the outside, and he couldn't do it, going just 1-for-7 from the field and finishing with just two points.
* Maryland got only two points from its bench.
Left to ponder
* Landon Millbourne scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but he also missed a lot of shots from in close, including two layups. What are the Terps going to do against teams who have a good, tall post player?
Kevin Van Valkenburg
GEORGIA TECH (9-5, 0-1 ACC) @MARYLAND (11-3, 0-0)
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