Terps Break Out, Hold On
Cavaliers’ Late Rally in Battle for Postseason Consideration Falls Short Maryland 85, Virginia 75
Maryland Coach Gary Williams said he sensed a change in his team Sunday evening, when the feelings of disappointment were still fresh after a loss to No. 3 Duke. The Terrapins led after a quick start in that game, only to watch the Blue Devils rally in the second half. But instead of hanging their heads, Williams said he noticed a new determination in his players, a drive to make sure not to allow a similar failure.
“By the time we walked out of the locker room, we were upset we didn’t win,” Williams said yesterday. “See, that’s what you have to be. You can’t be down. You have to be upset.”
That seemed to make a difference last night, when Maryland proved how much things have changed while knocking off Virginia, 85-75, in a game critical to the postseason fates of both teams.
For most of the game Maryland proved to be the more desperate team, holding a double-digit lead over an opponent that perhaps could have shown more urgency. Even when Virginia turned up the intensity
in the final minutes with a rally that brought them to within two possessions of the lead, the Terrapins had just enough to fend them off.
“We were determined,” said senior forward James Gist, who once again helped the Terrapins establish what’s become an effective inside-outside offensive game.
Maryland led by 17 points before the Cavaliers cut it to five with Mamadi Diane’s dunk with 1 minute 55 seconds left. But, unlike in the loss to the Blue Devils, the Terrapins made plays in the final minutes.
Senior center Bambale Osby scored on a tip-in with 53 seconds left and guard Greivis Vasquez hit two free throws with 21 seconds left to close out the Cavaliers.
“We grew,” said Vasquez, who led all scorers with 25 points. “We learned from our mistakes.”
While Maryland bolstered its NCAA tournament hopes by avoiding the kind of home loss that could besmirch its all-important Ratings Percentage Index, Virginia remained in last place in the ACC.
Only one team in ACC history began 1-5 or worse in conference play and earned an NCAA tournament berth. In 1986, Maryland started 0-6 in Lefty Driesell’s final season, but rallied behind Len Bias to finish 6-8 and advance to the tournament.
“We’re going to work on a dayto-day basis to find proper answers to the questions that are hurting us right now,” Virginia Coach Dave Leitao said. “We’ve dug ourselves a deep hole.”
Despite an injured hip, guard Sean Singletary scored 23 points to lead the Cavaliers. But Singletary didn’t have enough improbable floaters or fadeaway jumpers in his arsenal to overcome a 51.9 percent shooting night for the Terrapins.
With a relatively small lineup to face the tandem of Osby and Gist, Virginia was intent on containing the Terrapins’ front-court duo with a 2-3 zone it has used in limited spots this year. And earlier this season, zone defenses proved effective against the Terrapins, who had struggled with their shots.
But Williams used the two days of preparation for just that adjustment. It seemed the only surprise was that Virginia started the game in the zone and remained in it for most of the way.
“They weren’t good at it at all,” Vasquez said of the Cavaliers’ zone. “They were probably playing hard. But we took easy shots and we weren’t forcing anything.”
Maryland needed less than four minutes to open a double-digit lead, using a combination of hot shooting and crisp passing to push ahead. Through nine minutes, the Terrapins hit 12 of 17 shots from the field, and 6 of 10 from threepoint range while racking up 10 assists.
And with that, the Terrapins had concrete evidence of at least one of the changes they’ve undergone in the last month.
“You know what that means,” Terrapins forward Landon Milbourne said. “When a team comes out there and plays zone, they think we can’t shoot that well from the outside. We wanted to prove them wrong.”
“We were determined,” said James Gist, here drawing a foul from Solomon Tat. Gist scored 17 points, one of five Terrapins in double figures.
Greivis Vasquez goes up for two of his game-high 25 points. “We grew,” he said. “We learned from our mistakes.”