By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 12:12 AM
BLACKSBURG, VA. -
Whether Maryland or Virginia Tech ends up making the NCAA tournament or not next month, both will reflect on the events that took place Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum as a moment of what could have been.
The Terrapins, meantime, will only shake their heads at how another close game slipped through their grasp. This one, though, may have been the death knell to their faint chances at securing an at-large bid next month.
The win was the Hokies' 13th in the past 16 games, and kept them in fourth place in the ACC standings. The Terrapins, despite playing significantly better than when Virginia Tech defeated them 74-57 in College Park last month, came up short yet again against a quality opponent, falling to 3-10 against the RPI's top 100.
"You're close, but that doesn't mean anything," said Maryland Coach Gary Williams after the Terrapins fell to 2-8 this year in games decided by single digits. "You may as well be far away."
Senior Malcolm Delaney led Virginia Tech (17-7, 7-4 ACC) with 22 points after shooting a perfect 14 of 14 from the free throw line, but it was his contributions across the board that kept the Hokies in position to secure their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007 with just five regular season games remaining.
Forwards Terrell Bell and Victor Davila, who came into Tuesday night's game averaging a combined 14.6 points per game, had 16 and 14 points, respectively. Senior Jeff Allen notched his sixth straight double-double, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds despite some early foul trouble.
Virginia Tech's five starters accounted for 88 of the team's 91 points.
"Just to get that help from my teammates is big," said Delaney, who finished just 3 of 14 from the field. "To beat a good team in the ACC, you can't win with one person scoring or two people scoring. The whole team has to contribute."
The deciding basket came from Virginia Tech sophomore Erick Green, who nailed a three-pointer from the corner as the shot clock expired with 3 minutes 24 seconds left in the game. It gave the Hokies an 82-76 lead, their largest of the half, and sent the boisterous crowd of 9,686 into a frenzy.
The shot capped off a 10-2 run by the Hokies, a surge that was due in large part to Maryland's Jordan Williams (16 points, nine rebounds) picking up his fourth foul.
"It felt like a dream come true," said Green, who finished with 20 points and five assists. "Big-time shot and I'm in a big arena, it just felt real good. We knew we had to sweep them."
Up until that point, neither team had been able to pull away during a fast-paced second half. After Maryland (16-10, 5-6) entered halftime with a three-point lead, the Terrapins didn't relinquish that advantage until Bell hit his fifth three-pointer, a career-high, at the 11:28 mark.
Just like in the teams' meeting last month, the Hokies started out quickly in the first half, jumping to a 13-5 lead. But behind the play of freshman Terrell Stoglin (career-high 25 points, six assists) the Terrapins wouldn't go away this time. Stoglin led Maryland on a 12-1 run that gave it a 24-23 lead, and put them back in the game for good.
Ultimately, though, Stoglin's play would not be enough as Delaney hit free throw after free throw down the stretch.
And as the clock wound down, Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg flapped his hands in the air, exhorting the home crowd to give the Hokies a standing ovation. Perhaps it was the joy of another victory.
More likely, though, it was relief. In a game neither team could bear to lose, his had come out on top.
"That," said Greenberg as he sat down for his postgame news conference. "was an unbelievable character win."