Say what you will about Maryland's disappointing final season in the ACC, but the Terrapins sure know how to make an exit.
Seth Allen scored a game-high 20 points and Dez Wells added 18 as Maryland completed a 75-69 upset of regular-season conference champion Virginia in overtime on Sunday.
One of the nation's smartest and most efficient defenses, the Cavaliers made a series of uncharacteristic mental gaffes on the perimeter. Wells and Allen were able to attack off the dribble and break the contain on the outside, leading to easy points and a bunch of free throws in key minutes.
Virginia held the Terrapins to just one field goal over the final 5:20 of regulation, knocking down clutch free throws to nearly take the game in regulation. As the Cavaliers have throughout this season, they managed to come back and give themselves one last opportunity.
Down 64-61 with three seconds remaining, Maryland smartly fouled Malcolm Brogdon to prevent a game-tying three-pointer. After making the first, all Brogdon could do was purposefully miss the second and hope a teammate pulled down a rebound. The Cavaliers crashed the boards hard, leading to a panicked tip out of bounds by Maryland.
Given one last chance, Tony Bennett called a beautiful lob play to Anthony Gill, who caught the ball in midair and made an awkward jumper to send it to overtime.
It would have been understandable for Maryland to pack it in after Gill's shot. Coming in at 16-14 with zero shot at making the NCAA tournament without a conference tournament win, the Terrapins had little need to win this game. Maryland will leave the ACC for the Big Ten starting next season, so not even conference pride was on the line.
Even Bennett admitted after the game he thought the Cavaliers had the momentum, per Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post:
Tony Bennett on his feelings entering OT after that lob: "Certainly the momentum, you felt was on our side. "— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) March 9, 2014
Maryland's personal pride and the desire to honor the team's seniors seemingly won out.
Allen came out in the overtime period and knocked down back-to-back layups, putting Maryland ahead by four and soothing the worries in College Park. The Terrapins never trailed in the extra period, nor did Virginia even knot the score outside the opening seconds.
Allen scored a team-high five points in overtime. Jake Layman, who otherwise had a miserable 1-of-7 performance from the field, also knocked down clutch free throws in regulation and overtime. Six of his eight made shots at the charity stripe came with no more than 38 seconds remaining on the game clock in either period.
Nothing ultimately changes for Maryland. Even with a solid 9-9 conference record, the Terrapins' disappointing nonconference performance keeps them well outside tournament contention. Perhaps a run to the finals could convince the committee to give them an extra look, but coach Mark Turgeon has to hope this win sparks something special.
Maryland played Syracuse, Duke and Pittsburgh to within four points during the regular season, so anything is possible. Turgeon is yet to make the NCAA tournament in his three seasons since taking over for Gary Williams.
As for the Cavaliers, disappointment would likely undersell their current state of mind. The team was coming off one of its biggest victories in recent program history against Syracuse and had more than a week to prepare for this matchup. Winning its first regular-season ACC championship since 1981 was an accomplishment, but earning a coveted No. 1 seed is now very much in question.
CBS Sports' Seth Davis was one of many to note the Cavaliers benefiting from the conference's unbalanced schedule:
Virginia won the ACC regular season but remember the imbalanced schedule. This is their 6th loss of the season. Hard to get a 1 seed.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 9, 2014
Virginia hosted Syracuse and North Carolina in its only matchup with each of those schools. The Cavaliers did play Duke tough in a road loss in January, but the committee understands their record may be a bit deceiving.
Losses like these won't do anything to quell that reputation.
Both teams move on to the ACC tournament. Virginia, as the top overall seed, is on a bye and will have its matchup determined by earlier matchups. Maryland's seeding in the conference tournament is still up in the air, topping out at No. 7 and bottoming at No. 9.
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