Cliff Tucker has never been accused of being particularly clutch, probably because he's never been on the floor when the game was in question. Playing time had certainly been hard to come by for the up-and-down wing in the past, and being on the floor in a one-point game with a second and a half remaining was unthinkable for him not too long ago.
But, for whatever reason, he was on the court alongside Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez today when Maryland needed a big shot. And it was he that ran off a screen and found - and made - the best shot available, and the Terps walked away with a win.
Does him being on the court at such a crucial time say something about how far he's progressed and how Gary Williams sees him? Maybe - it was a guard-heavy lineup to be sure, and he definitely has a better jumper than Adrian Bowie. Still, he was on the floor before the timeout, and remained on the floor after it. There's probably a measure of trust there, and if there wasn't, there certainly is now.
[Note by Ben Broman, 02/20/10 10:01 PM EST - There certainly was a trust level there. Gary called the play specifically for Cliff. Wow.]
This probably won't be the deciding blow in the Sean Mosley-Clutch Cliff battle for minutes. It probably doesn't even swing the balance of power all that much, because Mosley equated to better rebounding. But Tucker, and to a lesser extent Greivis Vasquez, deserve recognition for pulling off the most difficult thing in basketball: the buzzer-beater.
There's also a stark and entirely unfair contrast with Mosley, who missed his buzzer-beater shot against Wake Forest. As the unrest about finding a leader for next year increases, it's certainly interesting to know that one top candidate took and made that shot. Again, it's unfair, because Mosley was an inch away from that shot going in, but it's worth the note.
Whether this translates into more minutes for Tucker, who clocked only 9 the entire game, I don't know. Whether it means he'll be The Man next year, I don't know. What I do know is that there are a lot of fans that probably like him a lot more right now than they did eight hours ago.