COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Maryland Terrapins had just let their first win this season over a ranked opponent slip away with 0.5 seconds left and they now faced overtime.
Coach Mark Turgeon told his team to make the next five minutes their best five minutes of the topsy-turvy 2013-14 season, and his Terrapins took that message to heart, going out to record a 75-69 overtime win over 5th-ranked Virginia Sunday in Maryland's final ACC home game.
The Terrapins, who had just seen their late lead disappear against the numbingly efficient ACC regular season champion Cavaliers, outscored Virginia 11-5 in the extra session, a fitting end to the Terrapins' tenure in the ACC. After 61 seasons, the Terps will wear Big Ten patches on their jerseys next year.
With Gary Williams courtside watching and tons of Terrapin basketball alumni in the house, all interested parties got to see one more storming of Comcast Center court after a big ACC win, and perhaps, Maryland signaling the team will be more than an afterthought in their final ACC Tournament tipping off Wednesday in Greensboro.
"Our guys were down, I was down, but all the stuff we've been through has made us really tough," said Turgeon of the sudden trip to overtime. "It's going to help us in the future. I said, ‘Guys, that's on me. I never foul (with a three-point lead at the end of regulation) but I did.' I said, ‘Let's make this the best five minutes of the year.' They didn't believe me at first but I might have said it 15 times in the timeout. We did. I thought we were tremendous in overtime."
But after Turgeon's words to the team, there was another powwow before play resumed that may have been just as important. "Me and Seth (Allen) got together and said we aren't going to let this happen," said Dez Wells, who combined with Allen for 38 points. "We're the guys that can make something happen off the bounce. Whatever it takes, we're going to do it."
Wells had already put the team on his broadening shoulders, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and adding a big bucket at 1:29 of the overtime that pushed the lead to 71-67.
Allen, who had a game-high 20 points, was certainly listening to his teammate. He scored the first five points off the extra period and blocked 6-5 Malcolm Brogdon's shot, as Maryland shot out to a 69-64 lead.
"In my mind I just said, ‘We're not going to lose,'" said Allen. "We have lost too many close ones and we've had trouble finishing games all year so I tried to take over offensively and defensively. I tried to help on defense in the lane and we did a good job."
Maryland Ready to Make Waves in Final ACC Tourney?
The Terrapins (17-14, 9-9) can finish no lower than ninth in the 15-team ACC, and could finish as high as seventh with help. Virginia (25-6, 16-2) has already sewn up the top seed but the Terrapins snapped their long-time rivals' 13-game winning streak with the victory, that brought Maryland students teeming onto the court, one young female fan about to be trampled near the Terrapin bench after the final horn sounded.
"There was a student getting trampled, she got caught under the chairs," said Turgeon. "My whole deal was I have a loud voice and since we won, I had a little pull there today. If we had lost they probably would have ran over me. So I yelled, ‘Stop!' And everybody stopped so I felt pretty cool, to be honest. We got her up and she was fine, and no one got hurt. I was happy for the students."
Turgeon can be happy for himself, too, his Terrapins claiming their first win over a ranked team in six tries, including three against Top-5 opponents in the last six games. Maryland also won a second straight game for the first time since consecutive wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, Jan. 29 and Feb. 1., and seem to maybe have a little momentum heading into a postseason that has to see them win the ACC Tournament to earn the school's first NCAA Tournament berth in four years.
"I think everybody in the league knows that we're pretty good," added Turgeon. "And our guys believe they're pretty good. It's just been a strange year, a tough year. You look at Iowa, and I don't want to use them because they're a great team and they're very well coached but Iowa is 9-9 in their league and they're 23rd in the country. It's hard to win. Were 9-9, and we had a tough league schedule. We didn't get to play the bottom-feeders twice and we had to play a lot of the top teams on the road."
Following Allen's opening salvo in overtime, Virginia got a three-point play from Evan Nolte, his only points of the game, then Wells posted up for his key overtime score. Virginia reserve Anthony Gill scored inside, the final of his team-high 15 points.
Allen missed a three but a long rebound got tipped by Shaquille Clear and corralled by Jake Layman, who ended up hitting two free throws. Nolte missed a three and Layman got a rebound, adding two more free throws to put the final score on the board with 21 seconds remaining.
"It's huge, we played so many good teams this year," said Layman, who finished with 10 points and went 8-for-8 at the line. "We're close and getting over that hump, especially in overtimes, and we really did that (today). Our confidence is really high going into the tournament. We feel like we can play with anybody."
Turgeon and several of the Terps commented on what Virginia coach Tony Bennett called a "charged atmosphere."
Wells elaborated: "The atmosphere was really good for us. It made it a really tough game for Virginia. They're a really good team on the road and at home. For us to win our last ACC game at home is a pretty cool thing to be a part of.
"We had extra motivation. Steve Francis was here, we had Juan (Dixon) on our bench. Walt Williams, Gary Williams, all those great players and legends from this University. They were here so we had that extra motivation to go out there and do a good job."
The Terrapins had done a good job up until the final minute of regulation, when they almost let another one slip away. Maryland shot 47.9 percent (23-of-48) from the field, and hit 24-of-30 at the line (80 percent), also forging a 35-30 rebounding advantage.
Bennett noted that Maryland's perimeter players "exposed" Virginia's tough defense off the dribble and thanks to that factor and solid inside play from Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who started despite the highly-publicized halftime blow-up last game against Virginia Tech, the Terrapins had a 32-20 edge in points in the paint.
Mitchell finished with six points and three rebounds before fouling out with 4:51 remaining in regulation. Cleare had five points and five rebounds in 26 minutes, his most playing time this season. He has 11 points and eight rebounds the last contests, and has been a positive factor defensively.
"I thought Shaq defensively was really good," said Turgeon. "Ball-screen defense is not easy for him and he was really solid. The (big) guys played with great intelligence today. They had to zone-up, guard two guys a lot, had to show on ball-screens. Evan (Smotrycz), Jon Graham, Shaq and Charles all played with great intelligence defensively which really helped our guards stay with those really good players that have on the perimeter."
Maryland's defense hectored steady Joe Harris into a 3-for-10 shooting day and three turnovers, including a big one near the end of regulation. Malcolm Brogdon, who has been the Cavaliers top player most of the season, was just 3-of-9 from the field. Virginia shot just 38.6 percent from the field, and only 28.6 (6-of-21) from 3-point range. It was their worst field goal percent effort in 14 games. Harris and Brogdon each finished with 12 points and London Perrantes added 14.
"At the start Virginia was fresh and just tremendous, and we were trying to guard them and just couldn't" said Turgeon. "Then I thought our defense was outstanding the rest of the way. I think our team was really guarding and rebounding."
Terps Gut Out Close One
Still, the two teams were never separated by more than four points over the final 10 minutes of regulation. Wells had given the Terps a 51-46 lead with a layup at 10:17, but Gill hit a free throw and then Brogdon got a stickback. When Harris hit a three at 8:29, Virginia was back in front, 52-51.
Allen hit one of two free throws to tie the game and then Wells hit two more for a 54-52 lead at 6:39. Layman got his first field goal with 5:16 remaining for a 56-53 advantage. Harris hit a jumper to make it 58-56. Wells, with most of the offense running through him in the second half, got two more free throws but Harris nailed two, also, to make it 60-58 at 2:59.
Allen hit a tough runner for a four-point lead 20 seconds later and Maryland seemed to be in control.
Point guard Perrantes drove into the paint looking to pass and Wells grabbed the errant pass and flung it off Akil Mitchell to give the Terrapins possession as the sellout crowd roared. Wells missed a 3-pointer and Gill got two free throws to make it 62-61.
Virginia had a chance to take the lead but Wells Drew Harris into a foul and a turnover at 5.4 seconds. Layman would hit two free throws for a three-point lead. Layman fouled Brogdan at half court with 2.8 seconds left and Brogdan hit the first and missed the second, the ball bounding out of bounds to the Cavaliers, the victory slipping from the Terrapins' grasp.
"Guys, I don't ever foul, but this has been the strangest year I've ever been a part of," said Turgeon after the game. "I said I'm going to do things backwards today because we haven't won any close game. We've got to come up with the rebound. We didn't and they ran a great play."
On the inbound, Gill laid a lob in from Perrantes with 0.5 seconds to tie the game at 64-64. The Terrapins couldn't get off a final shot in regulation and Turgeon talked his team up in the timeout between games.
"Coach just calmed us down," said Smotrycz, who had all 13 of his points in the first half. "It was kind of our season in a nutshell there at the end. Coach told ws that we have five more minutes and we have to beat them again. I felt we did a great job coming out and staying tough."
The Terrapins scored the most points of any ACC foe against the tough Viginia defense, and the most by any Cavalier opponent since a December loss at Tennessee.
Leading 45-37 in the second half, Maryland saw Virginia mount a comeback despite holding the Cavaliers without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. Virginia created opportunities, though, getting to the free throw line, hitting 4-of-6 over that span before Gill finally hit a jumper at 12:10 to make it 47-43.
The Cavaliers were in the bonus by the 11:34 mark when Harris hit one of two at the line to make it a three-point game.
That's when Wells came back alive, hitting two driving lay-ups around another Gill jumper, the second at 10:17, to make it 51-46.
Maryland had opened the second half on an 11-2 run, Wells scoring the first six points, four from the free throw line around a 12-foot turnaround, before Allen dropped in a three at 17:32, and forced Bennett to call timeout, Maryland now up 43-37.
A Virginia turnover led to a layup by Clear from Smotrycz and it was an eight-point lead at 16:37.
Smotrycz Keeps Terps Close in First Half
Virginia led 35-34 at the half, overcoming a five-point Maryland advantage in the last five-and-a-half minutes. Perrantes had the hot hand, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers including two in a row to put the Cavaliers up 28-27, the second one at 3:37.
Back-to-back Terrapin turnovers fueled fastbreak dunks from Mitchell and Justin Anderson, the former Maryland commit under Gary Williams, but Mitchell hit a short turnaround and a Smotrycz three at 53.2 seconds put Maryland back ahead 34-32. Perrantes got loose for another three at 19.3 seconds and then Allen's jumper was off at the buzzer.
Maryland shot 52.2 percent (12-of-23) and was 4-of-10 behind the arc in the first half. The Terrapins did their best work earning a 15-9 rebounding edge against big, long Virginia. The Cavs hit 50 percent (13-of-26) and were 5-of-11 from 3-point range, Perrantes doing most of the damage.
Cleare had hit two free throws and then Mitchell scored on a nice feed from Wells at 5:24 to give the Terrapins their biggest lead at 27-22.
Trailing by nine early, Maryland got a lift from Smotrycz off the bench. He came in and scored 10 of the Terrapins' first 13 points.
Virginia had gone on a 12-2 run early to open a 14-5 lead when Atkins hit a baseline jumper. Perrantes and Anderson hit 3-pointers during the spree. Smotrcyz hit a couple of threes, the second at 12:18 to bring the Terrapins within 14-10, part of a 15-4 Maryland run.
Senior John Auslander, the former walk-on, got to start his final home game and had a steal in his four minutes. Nick Faust was 1-of-3 from the field and had three points, three rebounds and a block in his 24 minutes.
Fittingly, Maryland has played Virginia more than any other program, now 107-74 in 181 meetings with the Cavaliers.
Terps Knock Off No. 5 Virginia in ACC Finale
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