The Five: What I Learned After Virginia

Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 75-69 overtime victory against Virginia March 9 at the Comcast Center.

Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 75-69 overtime victory against Virginia March 9 at the Comcast Center.

Smotrycz Shines

While he didn't do much in the second half beyond a follow-rebound and sweet dish to Shaq Cleare all alone under the bucket for the prettiest assist of the game (and a 45-37 Terps lead with 16:35 remaining), no one helped stake the Terps early to their overtime thriller win over Virginia like junior forward Evan Smotrycz.

Often maligned for his one-trick pony, over-reliance on the jumper kind-of-game of late, Smotrycz came out of the gates roaring.

Smotrycz (finally) mixed an inside-outside game to the tune of 13 first-half points, hitting five of six field goals, including two treys as Maryland trailed just 35-34 at intermission to a team that hadn't lost since mid-January, to Duke, not to mention had defeated the Terps six straight times.

The Michigan transfer enjoyed perhaps his best all-around outing as a Terp, as he let the game come to him from the start. With his help, Maryland, for once, dictated tempo for much of the game. He hit an early jumper from the right side, and followed that with a step-back jumper in the lane to stem an early Virginia run as Maryland cut the lead to 14-7 at the 13:25 mark in the first half. Then Smotrycz bombed a 3-pointer off transition after a steal at 12:17 to cut the lead to 14-10. Finally, to cap the early run, he tipped back in his own miss and was fouled and converted a three-point play at 11:39. Maryland trailed 16-13 as he was 4-for-4 from the field to start.

The Terps began mixing up full court and half court presses, and it took Virginia out of its game with a scrambled pace, while offensively the Terps, thanks to Smotrycz early, went on a 15-4 run and a 23-20 lead with a little over eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Terps were more efficient on offense, didn't have as many empty possessions that have dogged them in games seemingly all season, while Smotryrz helped force some turnovers late in the half as Maryland kept the game taught with the ACC's top team. Finally, he drilled another 3 ball with 51 seconds left in the first half for a 34-32 Terps lead.

Smotrycz was mostly quiet in the second half -- missing both free throws at the 5:56 mark with Maryland up 54-52 -- but he did have a hard take to the hoop on which he got fouled on. It was a good sign for the Terps, who had seen Smotrycz "settle" too much this season for jumpers and avoid much contact. The Terps ran more set plays and pick and rolls, as the offense stagnated less with more balance and points in the paint.

Smotrycz finished with those 13 points and only turned it over one time. But it was perhaps his most composed game as a Terp, as he was efficient and also aggressive in looking to attack the basket and willing to try more of an in-between game.

Wells Closes It Out

And if it was Evan Smotrycz who paced Maryland to its first half success, it was (as usual) Dez Wells doing his best work and damage in the second.

Wells, the closest thing to a junkyard dog the Terps have, had a mostly quiet first 20 minutes, but he awoke angry in the second by leading an attacking Terps offense into the teeth of Virginia's nation-leading defense, not only finishing at the basket (another seemingly lost Terp art), but getting to the line.

Wells, for a spell, took over the game at the 11:10 mark in the second, converting a hard take going to his left that rolled around the rim and in for a 49-44 Maryland lead and his 10th point. A minute later he did much of the same, another power move to his left for a 51-46 Terps lead.

He helped Maryland control the boards and get more '50-50' balls than usual, while he showed again why he may be the Terps best post-up option on roster. He had those 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the line as two hits from the charity stripe helped the Maryland lead to 54-52 with 6:37 left.

Wells hit two more free throws with 3:21 left as Maryland went up 60-56 (still perfect on the day from the stripe), and then had the 'heads-up' play of the game with 2:15 left, when he threw the ball off Akil Mitchell's back under the Virginia basket to regain possession and put Maryland up 62-58 after a Seth Allen pull-up jumper.

Though next he would miss a 3-ball and turn the ball over with 1:10 left when Joe Harris got his hand on the ball, Wells offered up maybe a fitting "ACC payback" 'flop' on a Harris push-off call under the basket on a UVA in-bounds play with 5.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Harris did get his hands on him, but it was an alert play to exaggerate nonetheless by the junior wing Wells.

Maybe a little justice after all, in the Terps' final home ACC game after 61 years and a few too many Duke 'flops' along the way.

Finally, in overtime, and with Maryland more aggressive throughout on defense, Wells came up with a clutch tip for a steal. Seth Allen then finished with a spin move and scored with 3:10 left as Maryland built its lead, one it would not relinquish, to 68-64. Wells added the punctuation mark with another post-up finish on the left side for a 71-67 Terps lead with 1:25 left in the extra period.

The Xavier transfer, also maligned at times this season for disappearing for long stretches in games, showed great timing with his second-half heroics, matching the Michigan transfer Smotrycz's first half ones. Maryland was able to take Virginia out of its offense and rhythm for long stretches; get some transition buckets off tips and deflections; and get better help 'D' and allow fewer second-chance opportunities thanks to Wells. He finished with 18 points, three rebounds and three turnovers, hitting 5-of-7 field goals and 8-of-8 free throws on a mostly seamless day with his floor game.

Finally Won a Close One

At ranked Virginia. On the road at ranked Duke. At home against ranked Syracuse. The Terps had every chance to win tight games and grab signature wins late this season, but with each it was the season-long theme of 'too little too late' for this team with all the tragic losses. Throw in the overtime loss last week at Clemson, and you get the picture.

On March 9, Maryland finally closed one out, and against another team they were not supposed to be in the game with, besting No. 5 Virginia in the extra session to finally get that elusive 'signature win.'

It may still be too little too late for the Terps' NCAA Tournament hopes, barring a miracle run at the ACC Tournament next week. The NIT looks the likely destination, maybe against crosstown Georgetown in two weeks. But on a day the legends came out at Comcast and the Terps feted their ACC past, they stole a momento to cherish well into the future.

After what seemed to be yet another backbreaker in a season full of them -- Gill's bucket off the in-bounds lob from London Perrantes following a back pick the Terps got lost on -- Virginia tied it up, 64-64, as time expired in regulation, making Terps fans think, "here we go again."

But in the extra session Maryland again was the aggressor, Seth Allen scoring off two hard takes, the second a pretty spin move to the right as Maryland went up 68-64 at the 3:10 mark. Allen helped summed up a day that, offensively, saw Maryland not settle for as many rushed or poor 3-point shot attempts, and attack and get to the line.

Another Terp looking for redemption, sophomore Jake Layman, who had his share of iffy shots and turnovers today, more than made up in the extra session, canning 4-of-4 clutch free throws in the final 40 seconds, after hitting both ends also with 4.1 seconds left in regulation to give Maryland a 64-61 lead they would definitely need. Layman was perfect from the stripe on the day (8-for-8), while he did nail a deep jumper with 5:14 left in regulation, and grabbed a few key rebounds late, as Maryland was able to hold on for victory.

Chalk Layman up as another Terp that has been through the ringer this season only to add a key part to the win today. Layman and the Terps were more of a presence on defense as well, moving and helping and rotating with more purpose, all to help stymie an usually clockwork-like Cavs offense this season. Maryland outscored stingy Virginia, 11-5, in the extra session, making all the plays it needed to 'close one out,' something missing for most of the season.

Empty Possessions

Empty possessions. It could be the code word for Maryland's offense for the season. Be it turnovers, rushed jumpers or lack of basketball IQ when it comes to decision-making with the ball, Maryland has had a season of klunker possessions for sure.

But against the No. 5 Cavaliers, Maryland turnovers were down (12), their shot selection improved (52 percent shooting in first half), their inside-out game increased, and an overall sense of offensive calm restored.

Now, Maryland still has a ways to go in all of the above categories, and Seth Allen, Jake Layman and especially Nick Faust, can hoist some funky 3-balls, among other shots. But March 9 the Terps offense ran a lot less like something it sometimes borders on -- summer pickup games -- with more patience, flow and set plays like pick-and-rolls.

Maryland still doesn't have a dominant big man, and Charles Mitchell, back from last game's dust-up on the bench, is still too silly-foul-prone and checked out of the game with his fifth with 4:51 remaining and just six points. But backup and recent bench occupier Shaq Cleare (five points, five rebounds in 26 minutes) again responded with some solid play in reserve. That includes some late free throws in a tight game, a key block of Malcolm Brogdon, as well as crucial tip to keep a rebound alive off a missed Allen shot that Layman was able to corral and get fouled and to the line for two made free throws and a 73-69 Terps lead with 38.4 seconds left in overtime. It may have proved the 'subtle' play of the game, but for Cleare, who is scratching and clawing for any minutes he can come by, it was a contribution that did not go unnoticed.

All in all, Maryland finished shooting 48 from the field, a healthier 80 percent clip from the foul line, and had the 12 turnovers. And when they had to make plays, they more often did, and all against the nation's No. 7 defense. If the Terps can continue to run their sets, look to attack the basket and not just settle, and control tempo like they did March 9, well they may be able to extend their season a bit more.

Terps Hit the Glass, Play Defense

Maryland did an excellent job in the paint (32-20 scoring advantage to the Cavs inside) as well as limiting Virginia to few second-chance points. The Terps were aggressive on the glass and kept Virginia to 'one-and-done' possessions more often than not.

Active on the glass was Jake Layman (eight rebounds), Evan Smotrycz (five) and Shaq Cleare (five), while Virginia only had a couple second-chance buckets. Though Virginia had four players in double figures, the Cavs shot 38.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from downtown.

Meanwhile, Maryland was able to scramble the pace of the game a bit with their various presses, which confused and got Virginia out of sync for several long scoring droughts in both halves. The pressure also helped the Terps get a handful of buckets off turnovers and transition, something starving from Maryland's repertoire most of the season.

Many have asked why the Terps don't play more up-tempo and press and run, to both take advantage of their athletes as well as mask their poor half-court ability. So maybe it will be something Mark Turgeon looks at more, as it certainly helped March 9.

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