With everything riding on their last game of the regular season, Maryland stumbled pretty hard in Charlottesville losing to the Cavaliers 68 – 63 this past Saturday. Their hopes of squaring up their record at 8 – 8 didn’t go without a fight, but eventually unsuccessful and may have completely shut themselves out of the NCAA tournament. Maryland all but assured themselves of an NIT bid with this loss unless they win the ACC tourney outright.
Maryland began the first half strong with their man-to-man defense and looked determined in getting out of John Paul Jones Arena with a win. They confused the Virginia offense with tight defense and almost at times looking much faster than the Cavaliers. It wasn’t until about 7 minutes to go in the first half, coincidentally when the Terps went to a zone, that Virginia started their surge. Oddly enough, Virginia had gone to a zone as well and forced Maryland to shoot more from the outside. At that point, Virginia went on an 11 – 2 run that only had them down by 4. It was like a Nor’easter had suddenly blew through the Arena and everyone there knew this was going to end in the favor of the Cavaliers. Something to point out is that Maryland did get to the line only once in this first half and it came around the 4 minute mark. Not favorable for the Terps, but keep this in mind as I’ll touch on it later.
The second half started much like the first half had ended where the Cavaliers came out in zone defense and Maryland didn’t respond well. They shot primarily from the 3 point line as they couldn’t figure out how to drive to the basket and nothing was falling for them. Greivis (21 points, 6 assists and 5 boards), Eric Hayes (7 points, 5 assists and 4 boards) and Cliff Tucker (0 points, 0 assists and 2 boards) ended the day with a 2 – 15 shooting from beyond the arc. That’s not going to take them very far so they either need to figure out how to shoot from the outside or go back to what they know best and drive the lane. The second half wasn’t too encouraging on the Terps free throws as they went to the line 2 or 3 times ending the day 4 – 6. At one point during the second half, I heard an unbelievable stat that hit home. Maryland has outscored 18 of 29 teams from the free throw line and their record in those games.. 16 – 2. Need I say anymore?
Looking this week to the ACC tournament, Maryland has got to get their act together. Yes, Gary has done a great job all year long with an undersized team against almost every opponent they’ve played. Yes, these kids have grown as a team this year and have fought through adversity such as the infighting between Gary and the Assistant AD. Yes, Maryland has played well down the stretch beating Carolina, playing close with Duke and Wake Forest. None of that matters now though. They want to get in to the NCAA tournament and the only way they’re going to do so is by winning the ACC tourney. A similar Maryland team back in 2004 was so unstable that no one expected them to move past the first game and they ended up doing more by winning the whole thing. Gary has got his hands full, but whatever he said back in 2004 to those kids, he should repeat it this week.