Oops Virginia Did It Again! Pops Maryland's Bubble

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2009

Saturday proved, yet again, that rivalry games are always worth watching.

Virginia may not be able to hang their hats on much this season.  In many ways, this was a year to forget as the Cavaliers stand at 10-17, 4-12 ACC.

Experts will tell you Virginia had no chance against the Terrapins even though the Cavaliers have won the last three home games against Maryland and lost by six on the road earlier this season.

Well experts of the rivalry can tell you that these games always go to those who need it the least. Maryland's tournament dreams were on the line and their desperation would turn to despair.

For the second straight year, Virginia ended its regular season by defeating the Terps and once again look to be a big reason why the NIT may soon be beckoning for Gary Williams and company.

Oh, and how fitting that on Senior Day that Virginia would get the win from its forgotten man, the Terp Killer himself, Mamadi Diane.

Diane's 23-point performance was something everyone had hoped he could provide this season as a team captain. However, often those kind of offensive fireworks were not forthcoming.

Be it the injury this summer or the erratic playing time, obviously the season was not what Diane had imagined it would be when he started the year. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to playing Maryland, Diane is anything but inconsistent.

Diane has averaged over 17 PPG against the Terps at home over his career.  Almost all his career marks came from a 26-point performance his sophomore year against Maryland which helped propel Virginia to the top of the ACC standings.

The Dematha product grew up in Maryland's backyard and that clearly has added some fuel to his fire each and every time these teams have done battle.

As Maryland fans could only stare in disbelief, Virginia fans could only scream for joy as a great man had a great play to end his career for the Cavaliers.

With a Terp comeback knotting the game at 61-61, Virginia phenom Sylven Landesberg saw the double-team he knew was coming and went to Diane to provide the dagger. 

He did not disappoint.

The three-pointer in the final minute brought the crowd to a fever pitch and lifted the sorrow spirits of Virginia basketball fans this season.

In some ways it was a sight Virginia fans were used to seeing, Diane shot over 40% from behind the arc last season.

However, this season Diane was 5-of-39 from behind the arc before going 3-of-4 last night.

Talk about a turnaround.

Virginia's season has been over for quite some time and unless the Cavaliers stage a miracle similar to that of 1976, their season will end on a loss.

Nevertheless, Diane's performance (while tragic to most Marylanders) was truly a tale of redemption.  The man has struggled physically and mentally to cope with a debilitating slump.

It took its toll no doubt this season. 

It impacted Coach Dave Leitao who was clearly frustrated. 

It impacted his teammates who were too young and inexperienced to handle the roles they were given.

It impacted his father Mori Diane who so desperately wanted his son to succeed like he knew he could.

It impacted the fans who grew restless.

Well for one day all those things went away.  That is the beauty of winning.  It is a salve in short supply in Charlottesville this year but it's results are undeniable.

Virginia's regrettable season at least can claim some shaudenfreude by helping pop the bubbles of both their arch-rivals, Maryland and Virginia Tech by beating both of them at home. 

The Cavaliers never gave up, even in the darkest days and as Leitao put it there is "a level of optimism moving forward."

So here's to you Mamadi Diane, let's see if the Cavaliers can pop a few more bubbles before it's all said and done.