Maryland came into their Tuesday game against Boston College having lost three of their last four and coming off a steamrolling at North Carolina, quietly needing to beat BC in a very bad way. Not necessarily because they needed a win full stop, but because another loss - this time against clearly inferior opposition - would have been seriously worrying and very nearly fatal for their season.
It wasn't always pretty. Nor always very convincing. But come close of business Tuesday night, thanks to a double-double from Alex Len and a huge second-half burst, get the win they did, running out of Comcast Center with a 64-59 win over a gritty but ultimately overmatched BC.
Len dropped 16 and 13 despite leaving a few opportunities on the floor, looking like the Terrapins' best player and performing as he should've against a very small Boston College front. He ran ragged Ryan Anderson, BC's best player, on both sides of the floor. Jake Layman deserves credit, too, finishing with 15 points on 5-9 shooting and anchoring Maryland's second-half performance. People will call for him to start more often now, as it's starting to look clear that he's better there than he is off the bench. Increasingly, it's tough to disagree with that.
Again, it wasn't the most impressive performance Maryland's seen this year. Despite their substantial physical advantage over the Eagles, a team that lost to lowly Bryant (at home), Maryland hardly ever dominated the game the way you'd like to see, the way they did against Virginia Tech. Aside from a 12-1 run they enjoyed in the second half, this was a particularly well-matched game; in fact, BC might've won if they had shot better than 10-17 from the free throw line.
Indeed, what we saw from Maryland differed very little from what we saw over the past few games. They shot a little bit better than they have recently - 42% from the field (48.3% in eFG%, which is a respectable mark) - but still struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 14 times, a number that's worse than it seems given the slow tempo of the game. And their defense continues to be strong but inconsistent, holding BC to 35% from the field but giving up a lot of open looks that went unconverted. They still dominated the glass, of course, and uncharacteristically hassled BC into turnovers in the second half, which helped to seal the game.
But hey: a win's a win, and Boston College gave N.C. State and Miami runs not dissimilar to the one they just gave Maryland. They're a well-coached team, if inexperienced, and have a solid, well-balanced offense. Maryland needed a win, and it was far from a gimme that they'd get one. So enjoy, at least for a bit, that they did.
The win isn't something that will necessarily change the trajectory or outlook for Maryland's year - Boston College is, after all, still probably one of the bottom three or four teams in the conference - but it wasn't a loss, and that means that the Terrapins can continue to regroup and build confidence and momentum. They're a better team than they've played as of late, and it's building block games like this that'll help them regain their confidence.
I'm still not sold they're a tournament team, and a win over BC isn't going to convince me, but I believe they can become one. And if they do, this is just one step on that road. It's not the only step, nor a hugely important one - the tests that come later will be drastically more significant in determining that. But it was a necessary step nonetheless.