Mark Turgeon opened a water bottle near the lectern in Comcast Center’s media room, took a deep breath and zapped the tense drama with one quick quip.
“Well, uh, that’s exactly how I drew it up,” Turgeon said.
Obviously, Maryland’s final play Wednesday night wasn’t quite what Turgeon orchestrated. Not even close, actually. But the Terrapins reached the finish line nonetheless, thanks to Alex Len’s tip-in with 0.9 seconds left, sending them to a wild 51-50 win over No. 14 North Carolina State. Here’s how everything went down.
After a solid defensive sequence, when Maryland weathered two jumpers from Scott Wood and one Wolfpack offensive rebound, James Padgett drew an over-the-back call on Richard Howell with 12.4 seconds left. With multiple fouls to give, North Carolina State hacked Pe’Shon Howard just past midcourt with 5.2 seconds on the clock, setting up the final play.
Dez Wells stood near the scorer’s table, inbounding the ball. Logan Aronhalt was on the opposite block, parallel to Alex Len, who set up on the elbow. Seth Allen was in the near corner, and Pe’Shon Howard the safety by midcourt.
It was supposed to be an up-screen and isolation play for Len. Maryland’s other last-second opportunities this season ended in an air-ball (Howard versus Kentucky) and a blocked shot (Allen versus Florida State). Both were three-pointers. This time, Turgeon wanted the basketball inside.
Instead, Len screened down for Aronhalt, who flashed to the ball, covered by a North Carolina State defender. Allen was similarly blanketed. So Wells passed to Howard, while Len sealed his defender, and drove left.
“I almost called a timeout because we had one,” Turgeon said. “Pe’Shon drove it, had enough time to offensive rebound.”
When Howard lofted a prayer over three Wolfpack players, Turgeon thought to himself, “Oh, no.” From the corner, Allen saw Howard’s drive and flashed to the hoop, backing out to the three-point line just in case. And Len saw his man leave, seeking a blocked shot rather than a box-out.
“When Pe’Shon drove, my guy just helped off. So I was kind of open,” Len said. “I don’t really remember. I just saw a ball and put it back.”
Simple as that. Except, as Turgeon said, the Terps were “0 for timeouts” on Wednesday, failing to execute any set piece Turgeon designed during a break.
“There wasn’t one timeout where they did what I asked,” Turgeon said. “Not one. It’s frustrating. We lined up, practiced it, it’s where we are. You sit up there, Pe’Shon’s looking at me after a timeout, like what? And I just drew the play up. It’s frustrating. It’s where we are.”
They’re also not in a place to gripe about Lady Fortune smiling upon them, at least for one night in College Park. Howard told Len it was a pass and celebrated briefly while tumbling to the floor as Len deposited the game-winner. The box score, however, credits it a field-goal attempt. No matter.
Turgeon gave his players Thursday off, before returning for Saturday’s date with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Be certain, last-second situations will certainly be on the practice agenda.
“Guys were just excited to run, whatever they had to do,” Allen said. :The timing was off. We’re usually good, he draws something up in practice and we’re usually good at it. Today we weren’t so great on it. I’m sure we’re going to work it a lot in practice, because you really need to be able to perform after a timeout.”
>> Playing against his hometown team, Dez Wells shot just 2 for 10 from the field and missed all three of his three-point tries, finishing with a season-low four points. But he also committed zero turnovers for the first time this season.
“I’ve got to get Dez playing a little bit better,” Turgeon said. “Dez didn’t turn the ball over tonight, which is a step in the right direction.”
>> Gary Williams received a massive ovation at halftime when he was presented with this painting, commemorating the 2002 national title team. The crowd also began chanting, “Gary! Gary! Gary!”
>> In a pretty cool history lesson, Dereck Whittenburg, who airballed the shot for North Carolina State that Lorenzo Charles famously dunked to beat Houston in the 1983 national championship game, causing Jim Valvano to run around like a mad man, was in attendance.
>> Terps 2014 recruit Dion Wiley (Potomac High School) was also in the stands, sitting behind the Maryland bench. The 6-foot-4 small forward is one of the state’s top-rated players for his class. He also has been offered by North Carolina State.