When Dez Wells picked up his fifth foul for Maryland, it looked like the game was over. Trailing by 14, the Terps had struggled in the offensive game all day, and without their leading scorer on the night not much hope remained. Maryland went on a 21-7 run without their star guard, but a buzzer-beating jumper by Maurice Creek sealed the 77-75 loss for the Terps.
The Terrapins got out to an early deficit, trailing 24-14 at the under-eight thanks to the usual suspects -- turnovers (six) fouls (eight) and poor shots (countless). Maryland made just five of their first 19 shots from the floor, and eight of their first 26. The George Washington lead expanded to a game-high 14 with three minutes to go, as the Colonials led 38-24. Maryland consistently forced shots in the half, showing pitiful ball movement and very little semblance of an offensive gameplan -- all leftovers from the Ohio State decimation. The Terps had eight turnovers in the first half, compared to just nine made field goals.
Maryland's defense was an issue -- as it has been from time to time -- but the offense had major, major issues once again. The Terrapin gameplan in the first half seemed to be pass the ball around for 20 seconds, with whoever receiving the ball last (often Evan Smotrycz on the outside) driving inside until he's stopped, then driving some more and forcing a shot. In transition? Pull-up jumpers from the least consistent shooters on the team -- Roddy Peters and Nick Faust.
Right before the under-16 in the second half, Jake Layman hit a huge three pointer (minutes after a Jonathan Graham basket and foul) to cut the lead to single digits at 48-40. Five minutes later, Dez Wells got the steal, made a nice move and slammed the ball home in transition to make it 58-50.
After Wells fouled out, the game appeared to be over, but back-to-back threes from Varun Ram and Faust gave the Terps hope. Jake Layman got a key steal on the ensuing in-bound, and Peters hit the bucket and the foul to make it 68-63.
The teams traded free throws, and George Washington was called for traveling, setting up a Layman bucket under the hoop to make it 70-67. After the Colonials made one free throw, Faust missed a three pointer and Peters made a terrific steal and bucket to cut the lead to 71-69.
George Washington hit another pair of free throws to make it 73-69, and on a loose ball Faust made a phenomenal play to force the ball out of bounds off his opponent. On the ensuing play, Faust found Layman under the basket for the basket to cut the lead to 73-71.
Charles Mitchell drew the offensive foul, and on the next possession Mitchell caught the offensive rebound on a Smotrycz miss and tied the game at 73-73. A foul on Charles Mitchell allowed two more Colonial free throws, making it 75-73 with less than 30 seconds to play. Peters drove into the lane and got fouled, and made both field goals to tie it at 75-75.
George Washington called timeout with eight seconds left, and Creek received the ball in the backcourt. He dribbled calmly up the floor, sinking a last-second jumper to win the game.
The offensive problems of the first half are certainly troubling, but it's hard not to be encouraged by the effort at the end of the game without the team's leader. The Terps came back and tied the game up, showed some serious heart and ability to play in the transition game, and were ultimately on the losing side of a close game.