March 9, 2014
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- When the final horn sounded Sunday afternoon, students streamed onto the Comcast Center court to celebrate with Maryland players, both parties as excited as if the Terrapins had just won a championship.
The mood among members of the UVa men's basketball team was more somber. For the first time since Jan. 13, the Cavaliers did not walk off the court victorious, and they were reminded Sunday how much they dislike losing.
"Not that we were arrogant, but we were living on a high," redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon said after fifth-ranked Virginia fell 75-69 in overtime to Maryland on the final day of the regular season.
"We hadn't felt the feeling of a loss in a while, and it's a good thing being knocked down a little bit and humbled before the postseason play."
The Wahoos (25-6, 16-2) forced overtime when redshirt sophomore big man Anthony Gill scored on a brilliantly executed inbounds play with five-tenths of a second left.
"Certainly the momentum, you felt, was on our side," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
But the Terrapins (17-14, 9-9) scored the first five points of the extra period, and after that UVa never had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.
"Typically we feel very confident going into the end of games, because we feel we can outlast teams," senior guard Joe Harris
said, "but Maryland didn't go away."
These longtime rivals may see each other again soon. Virginia, which clinched the conference's regular-season title last weekend, is the No. 1 seed at the ACC tournament, which starts Wednesday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
No. 8 seed Maryland will meet No. 9 seed Florida State in a second-round game Thursday at noon. The winner will face UVa in the first quarterfinal Friday at noon.
"We have a week to prepare for our next game, and we'll be ready," freshman point guard London Perrantes said Sunday.
Games between UVa and Maryland, no matter the sport, have often proved memorable, but this one had added significance. The Terps are joining the Big Ten after this school year, and this was their final ACC game at Comcast Center. It drew a sellout crowd that witnessed the end of Virginia's 13-game winning streak, which included a Feb. 10 victory over Maryland at John Paul Jones Arena.
In that game, the Terps shot only 40.4 percent from the floor and lost to UVa for the sixth straight time. In the rematch, they shot 47.9 percent and repeatedly pierced the Cavaliers' rugged Pack Line defense.
"It was a close game, but we didn't impose our will on them defensively," said Bennett, whose team came in leading the nation in scoring defense. "It was too easy for them."
Sophomore guard Seth Allen and junior swingman Dez Wells repeatedly drove past defenders and into the lane, and their penetration helped Maryland total 32 points in the paint. (Virginia, by contrast, had only 20.)
"That's a big number for us," Bennett said. "We pride ourselves on trying to be a team that takes away the lane first and then makes people shoot contested shots. We certainly had our difficulties against it."
Allen led all scorers with 20 points, and Wells was next with 18. They attacked the basket relentlessly, and the officials rewarded their aggressiveness. Between them Allen and Wells shot 14 free throws.
"We did a poor job [stopping dribble penetration]," Bennett said. "But they're very talented. They're good off the bounce. They did a good job spacing and really attacking. When they can get to the rim like that, it changes [the game]. I thought we weren't where we needed to be in that area."
Gill said: "Nothing against [Maryland], but our defense just wasn't where it needed to be today. Too many guys got into the lane too easy, and that can't happen in order for us to win games. People can't penetrate our pack like that."
Its subpar defense notwithstanding, Virginia led 35-34 at the break, thanks primarily to the sharpshooting of Perrantes, who was 4 for 5 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, though, Wells put Maryland ahead 38-37 with a pull-up jumper at the 18:47 mark, and UVa didn't regain the lead until Harris hit a trey, his only one of the game, with 8:29 left.
That made it 52-51, but the Cavaliers' lead was fleeting. Back-to-back trips to the line propelled Maryland to a 54-52 lead, and not until Gill's last-second basket, on a 6-footer in the lane, did Virginia pull even again.
"This was a charged atmosphere, and we knew we were going to have to play our best to come away with one, and we almost did," Bennett said. "But we've got some things that we can improve on."
In 29 minutes off the bench, the 6-8 Gill scored a team-high 15 points. Perrantes dislocated the pinky finger on his shooting hand in the first half, but he still finished with 14 points. In his past five games, Perrantes is 14 for 19 from 3-point range.
On an afternoon when Virginia shot only 38.6 percent from the floor, Harris and Brogdon added 12 points apiece. Brogdon also contributed seven assists -- tying his career high -- as well as five rebounds and one blocked shot. He didn't turn the ball over.
The 6-5 Brogdon played a leading role in the Cavaliers' second-half comeback. With 4.1 seconds left in regulation, two free throws by sophomore forward Jake Layman put Maryland ahead 64-61. The Terps didn't want to give up a game-tying 3-pointer, so they fouled Brogdon with 2.8 seconds to play.
Brogdon made his first throw to cut Maryland's lead to 64-62, after which Bennett called a timeout. If Brogdon were to make his second free throw, Bennett knew, the Cavaliers' chances of getting the ball back might be slim. So he instructed Brogdon to miss intentionally.
"Crazy enough, we practice missing those," Bennett said. "There's an art to missing free throws ... We work on that, and Malcolm did actually a great job where he missed it."
Brogdon's shot hit the right side of the rim and bounced off the backboard. A Terrapin, trying to corral the rebound, instead knocked the ball out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left.
For the second time in less than 10 seconds, UVa tried an inbounds play devised by assistant coach Jason Williford. On the first attempt, Harris had been called for an offensive foul after running into Wells with 5.4 seconds left.
"I think he sold it quite a bit and got the call, but I think it was the right call," Harris said. "I shouldn't have been as physical as I was."
This time, the `Hoos ran the inbounds play as drawn up. Harris, in the lane, first set a screen on Nick Faust, who was covering Brogdon, and then came back to screen Evan Smotrycz, who was defending Gill. Perrantes lobbed the ball in to Gill, who suddenly found himself uncovered in the lane.
Gill leaped to catch the ball and then tossed in a soft shot that temporarily silenced the Maryland fans. But for most of the game -- and for all of the overtime period -- the Terrapins' faithful were in full voice.
Still, Bennett said, "I don't know if that mattered much. It was just a team that outplayed us. Maryland's talented, and they've been close. They've been really close in a lot of games, and you could see it when they got going, and we didn't have enough to pull away. The crowd was great for them, the atmosphere was great, but we did get it to overtime."
As disappointed as the `Hoos were to lose in College Park, their focus quickly turned to postseason. A win Friday would send UVa to the ACC semifinals for the first time since 1995. The Cavaliers have much to work on before then.
"We'll learn from [the loss to Maryland]," Bennett said. "Not that we thought we were invincible, but now we know we [aren't]. So now we address it and now we get after it and become as ready as we can for an exciting time. We're going to need to up our performance in all areas. That's just tournament basketball."