In a game in which both teams shot miserably, things looked particularly bleak for Maryland on Sunday after it let a hard-earned, double-digit lead get slashed to four points in the waning moments against Georgia Tech.
But with less than three minutes remaining, senior guard Sean Mosley drilled a three-pointer as the shot clock ticked down and proceeded to score 11 of Maryland’s final 14 points to deliver a 61-50 victory at Comcast Center.
With it, the Terrapins improved to 12-4 overall (2-1 in ACC play) and took another step toward forging an identity as hard-nosed defensive scrappers under first-year Coach Mark Turgeon.
“We didn’t score a lot of points today,” said Mosley, who led all players with 18 points, including 10-for-10 shooting from the free throw line, “but our defense was definitely there.”
Mounting a fierce effort to muzzle Georgia Tech’s 6-5 swingman Glen Rice Jr., who had scored 28 against Duke the previous week, Maryland held the Yellow Jackets to 19 first-half points and 33.9 percent shooting overall. Rice managed just six points on 2-of-8 shooting.
It was a physical, ugly game played in front of a drowsy crowd of 11,776, with Maryland students still on winter break and the Baltimore Ravens vying for a spot in the AFC title game at tipoff.
The Terps got off to a rocky start on offense, missing four of their first five field goal attempts. Georgia Tech (8-9, 1-2) was no better. After more than six minutes, the score was stalled like a blown engine, knotted at 7 apiece.
The shooting got no better at either end of the court. Fourteen minutes into the game, the score was just 16-15, with both teams shooting less than 25 percent from the field.
Freshman Nick Faust roused the somnambulant proceedings just before halftime, stripping the ball and racing downcourt for a dunk that put the Terps up, 24-19, at the break.
The showy display roused the crowd and the Terps, who came out more aggressively in the second half. In a 30-second span, Mosley and Terrell Stoglin (14 points) hit three-pointers, and Stoglin followed with a four-point play — converting a free throw on a technical called as he drained a three-pointer — for a 34-26 Maryland lead.
Another steal and back-to-back baskets by Faust put Maryland up, 42-30.
But the Yellow Jackets stormed back with seven unanswered points.
With Alex Len and Ashton Pankey in foul trouble, James Padgett (14 points, nine rebounds) stood tall against Georgia Tech’s pounding under the rim and restored Maryland’s double-digit lead with a strong post move, then converted a three-point play on a putback.
But on a Maryland turnover, Georgia Tech’s Brandon Reed made it a two-possession game, 54-50.
That’s when Mosley hit the clutch three-pointer and kept the pressure on, driving to the basket to draw fouls that sent him to the free throw line for the final margin.
“I was going to drive it after I caught it,” Mosley said, crediting point guard Pe’Shon Howard with an excellent pass, “but I realized I hit my first three-pointer, and I was feeling it. Once I took the shot, I knew it was going in.”
Said Georgia Tech Coach Brian Gregory: “I thought Mosley was the toughest kid on the court. He flat-out won them the game.”
Maryland now faces a quick turnaround, with a game Tuesday at Florida State (11-6, 2-1), which routed North Carolina, 90-57, on Saturday.