Maryland got close. They battled back from an 18 point deficit, and were within two points multiple times. But they simply never got over the hump, never crossed over the biggest two point lead in history, and Georgia Tech forced Maryland's early exit from Greensboro with a 69-64 win.
I'm not going to do a big game recap because it still stings and there's not a huge point to it, considering you probably watched. (If you didn't, go here - Yellow Jackets vs Terrapins recap).
I will say a few things, though, and the first will probably be divisive. This loss is on a lot of people and a lot of things, but I can't help but think the refs deserve a big helping of blame. They absolutely blew a late shot clock violation call, thereby giving Georgia Tech two points. Had that not happened, Maryland would've been tied instead of losing by 2 in one of their final possessions, completely changing the outcome of the possession and Maryland's approach to it.
I'm not a huge ref-basher, but Maryland - regardless of everything else - put themselves in a position to win. Sure, they could've made a lot of shots or grabbed an extra rebound, but they didn't, and even while not doing that, the game should've been markedly different. And that's ignoring inconsistent calls the entire game.
I acknowledge that Maryland dug their own hole and that there multiple opportunities to win the game aside from this. This doesn't excuse Maryland's play or makes it any better. But I do feel that the end of the game was tainted by that call.
The second big thing is that the awful first half performance was a perfect storm. Georgia Tech couldn't miss, and Maryland couldn't make a shot. Think the first half of the Duke game earlier this year. Those games happen from time to time, and it's not indicative of a major problem across the board. Maryland got the open shots and just didn't get the rolls - maybe it was rust, or timing, or something along those lines, but it just didn't go well, and there wasn't much Maryland could do about it.
Give Georgia Tech credit, of course - they played great. I do think, though, that the combination of rust and pressure just ended up being too much - I don't think it's a big issue.
With that out of the way, I will laud Eric Hayes' performance - something about the ACC tournament just brings him to life. He was sensational at times in the second half, and ended the day with 14. Solid game for Hayes in his last ACC matchup. Landon Milbourne and Greivis Vasquez were on-and-off, good but not quite as good as I would've liked.
I feel compelled to mention that Maryland's defense was nothing short of outstanding in the second half, at least not in the low post; as long as whoever they get in the NCAAs doesn't have GT's frontline or amazing guard play, they should be fine defensively. That was the cause, first and foremost, of the comeback.
Tech did completely expose some of Maryland's weaknesses, though: rebounding and post play. They aren't new, but up to this point Maryland had hid them pretty well. GT took advantage of their short frontcourt and dominated the game inside. That needs to be addressed, obviously, but it's late for that. Time to pray whoever Maryland gets in the NCAAT has a small front line.
As for the rest of the game, I would encourage you not to look into it too much. Georgia Tech matches up well with Maryland, and was able to expose their inside play while getting lucky with the refs and with a hideous first half shooting performance. Maryland won't shoot 0% from 3 too much, particularly when a few of their looks are open. It was a loss and a hurtful one, but the biggest problem in the game - shooting - is a relatively isolated problem.
Two final notes: Maryland probably saved their 6 seed in the NCAAT, which might be a blessing in disguise. That was in doubt at the half, but the strong second half performance should assure the victory.
Also, not that I haven't pounded this into the ground: the last time Maryland won 7 in a row to close the year, they lost in the first round of the ACCT. For the sake of posting it, Maryland would go on to win in the first round of the NCAAT that season, then lose in the Round of 32. Keep it in mind.