Roughly an hour and a half before tip-off Sunday afternoon, fans began arriving on foot, in cars and by the busload at Comcast Center. They came expecting to see senior Alyssa Thomas make a run at the all-time scoring record in Maryland women's basketball history.
The opponent — Virginia Tech, in this case — was mostly incidental on the way to Thomas' potential coronation on Senior Day, which included a pregame ceremony recognizing her and four other classmates.
Using an all-senior starting lineup for the first time this season, the ninth-ranked Terps made quick work of their ACC border rival, 87-48. They went on an early 15-point run to put themselves ahead 20-4, a lead that grew to 38-15 at halftime as Maryland (24-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot 14-for-29 from the field and the Hokies (14-15, 4-15) went only 6-for-34 in the half.
Virginia Tech's production from the field improved to 12-for-22 after the break, but the Terps went 19-for-29. In addition to Thomas' 20-point, 12-rebound performance, Maryland received 13 points from guard Brene Moseley and 11 points and 10 rebounds from forward Tierney Pfirman.
By the time Thomas went to the bench with 9:13 left in the game, she had helped the Terps build a 69-33 lead. She and the rest of the seniors came back with 5:52 to go and played another several minutes to wrap up an eighth win in nine games.
Thomas' 20 points were a game high,but she needs another 14 to break Crystal Langhorne's program-high mark of 2,247.
Still, the day became unforgettable for Thomas in the game's aftermath, when the two-time ACC player of the year had her name and No. 25 jersey number unfurled on a banner from the rafters.
The two-time All-American with six career triple doubles nearly made it through her speech without crying.
"I think I tried to hold it in all day, I guess," said Thomas, the ninth player to receive the highest individual honor afforded a Maryland basketball player. "I don't know. Everything just came out right there."
Maryland secured the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament, which begins Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C. The top four seeds receive double byes into Friday's quarterfinals.
Next season, the Terps, after 36 years in the ACC, are set to join the Big Ten Conference in all sports.
"Just a tremendous team win for us, and to be able to lock up a No. 3 seed going into the tournament" is important, coach Brenda Frese said. "Obviously, the honor afterward, how fitting it was for Alyssa. I thought today you continued to see the smiling assassin out there, just how much fun she was having with her teammates."
Said Moseley: "It was humbling for me to be able to watch [Thomas]. … We've seen all the background behind what she does, all the hard work she's put in over the years, so to be able to see an honor like this come to her, it's comforting."
Towson 75, College of Charleston 63: Guard Tanisha McTiller scored a game-high 26 points to lead the host Tigers to a Senior Day win over the Cougars.
LaTorri Hines-Allen finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for Towson (13-15, 7-8 Colonial Athletic Association). The game started close, but the Tigers asserted themselves with a 7-0 run starting at 11:27 and led 35-18 with 3:31 remaining in the first half.
Coming off three straight wins, Charleston (15-13, 8-7) shrunk its deficit to 37-28 at the break, but never got closer to Towson than 40-36 with 16:11 to play. The Tigers turned the ball over 15 times and scored only two more points than the Cougars from the field, but were better from the free-throw line.
Bethune-Cookman 47, Morgan State 45: Guard Chastity Rene Taylor's baseline jumper with 0.5 of a second remaining ended the host Lady Bears' second-half comeback bid.
Led by guard Tracey Carrington (Dundalk) with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Morgan State (4-23, 2-12 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) kept within four points of Bethune-Cookman (11-16, 8-7) until the Lady Wildcats used an 11-point run in 50 seconds to build a 27-12 advantage with 5:24 left in the first half.
The Lady Bears came back from a 17-point deficit in the second half, and a pair of free throws by Carrington put them ahead, 43-42, with 3:25 to play. Bethune-Cookman took the lead again with 1:38 left, and Morgan State tied the game but could not prevent Taylor's game-winner.
Hartford 67, UMBC 56: The Retrievers rallied late but were unable to erase a 24-point deficit as they lost to the host Hawks in their regular-season finale.
Freshman guard Rodney Elliott Jr. (John Carroll) scored 17 of his team-best 21 points in the second half for the Retrievers (9-20, 5-11 America East Conference), but UMBC never led Hartford (16-15, 10-6).
The Hawks took a 29-19 halftime lead, which expanded to 55-31 with 8:22 to play. Elliott's pair of free throws with 4:29 left started a 15-point run that brought the Retrievers to within 64-55 with just over a minute remaining, but they could not get any closer. UMBC received the No. 5 seed for the America East tournament, its highest seeding since 2008.
Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.