With Miami missing star big man Kenny Kadji due to an unexpected head injury, Maryland went into the BankUnited Center with a great chance to grab a crucial road victory - their first of the season, and their first ever at Miami. Instead, we saw one of the strangest, most exciting games in recent memory, featuring four technical fouls, a Mark Turgeon ejection, a 23-7 second half run from Maryland, 33 points from Terrell Stoglin, a missed offensive goaltend, a 35-foot three-pointer (not from Stoglin), and two overtimes.
The end result? Sadly, a continuation of the Curse of Coral Gables: Miami nipped the Terrapins, 90-86, in a two-OT barnstormer.
Normally I write the recap here, but, uh, well, just forget the first half ever happened. It was sloppy and boring and painful. Maryland entered the half trailing by 11, that's all you need to know.
Anyway, they cut the lead to five within minutes, and though they were unable to string together a big run, fought to stay within striking distance for the first ten minutes of the half; about halfway through the half, they trailed by only four. But then things started to get really weird. Maryland, down 11, pressed Miami on the inbounds with around 7:00 left; Nick Faust got the steal and appeared to convert a layup through contact. Faust was called for the charge though, and Mark Turgeon kind of exploded, drawing two quick technicals and an ejection. Miami hit three of the freebies, and Scott Spinelli took things over for the Terps.
What happened after was ... somewhat incredible. Maryland, clearly energized by their coach's passion, was trailing by 11 with about 5:00 to go. But Faust was fouled while attempting a layup, and embraced by Reggie Johnson on his follow-through, with Johnson being called for a technical. That gave Maryland four free throws and the ball - the Terrapins made all four, and then a putback lay-in by Ashton Pankey ensured a six-point possession that cut the lead to five. All of a sudden, it was a game again.
After Turgeon's ejection, Maryland went on a 27-7 run - and three of Miami's points came from the free throws off the two technical calls. Terrell Stoglin hit a jaw-dropping, game-tying three-pointer with 1:03 left, and that would ultimately take the Terrapins into overtime.
What followed is difficult to describe. It was largely a back-and-forth battle for much of the OT period - though Miami got an incredibly lucky bounce when Trey McKinney Jones' 35-foot three-pointer found the bottom of the net - and dueling missed threes in the final few seconds sent the game to another overtime. That period opened with a blatant missed offensive goaltending call, and Maryland never got back around to seriously contending after that. They simply didn't have the legs anymore. Too many missed box-outs and too much sloppy execution - the adrenaline fading, perhaps - doomed them in the final overtime.
There is much and more to discuss from this one - how was the officiating? was Turgeon's technical decision good? how awesome was Scott Spinelli? how well did Alex Len play? was this Nick Faust's coming of age? - and we'll get to all of that, in due time. But there's too much adrenaline flowing to properly address it so quickly.
I'll say this: it hurts to lose, as it always does, and in this game in particular, because Maryland was so close to a win that would've obviously meant so much for the program. In that sense, it's upsetting. But look: Maryland wasn't the better team. They didn't have more talent, or more experience, or the better resumé. They're obviously very far away from where they should be in terms of execution - it's clear, in reflection, that Mark Turgeon has every right to be exasperated with their performances, as he has been often. Maryland isn't, at least not yet, the sum of their parts. (Maybe they are, but I have a sneaky suspicion not.)
But you can never fault effort, and particularly not tonight. It might've taken Turgeon to light a fire under them, but when push came to shove they pushed back. The second half run and two overtimes, during which Terrell Stoglin basically willed points onto the scoreboard, were sights to behold. This is still Gary Williams' roster, mind you, and they have Gary Williams' heart and Gary WIlliams' fight. That was obvious tonight, and good to see. But they responded to Turgeon, as well, and that says something about him and this team. I saw someone say it in the GameThread, and it's a great point: he unquestionably has their backs, and they responded by having his. There's trust building by the day, and that will only lead to good things.
Maryland isn't a perfect team. They're not a very good one, in fact, and almost certainly NIT-bound - if that. But they're a gritty team, and a team stacked with potential. Wait and see where they are in a year. The early returns, at least to me, are promising, if frustrating.
We'll have more tomorrow.