TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Of course the burden fell on this man, alone in the corner with the clock ticking down, a history of ACC daggers already in his pocket. Because really, how else can a close game against Florida State end these days, but with a three-pointer lofted from the ice-cold wrists of Michael Snaer with 1.1 seconds left?
Snaer worked his magic once again, hitting his second game-winner in seven days and fourth in the past two seasons, lifting the Seminoles to a 73-71 win over Maryland at the Donald E. Tucker Center on Wednesday night, another gut-wrenching loss for an already starved Terrapins bunch.
Had Maryland executed down the stretch, however, it would have silenced the sparsely packed crowd and benched the chopping tomahawks. Had Nick Faust not missed three free throws in the final five minutes, or had Alex Len converted a gimme alley-oop dunk with 13 seconds left, or had the entire Terps defense not collapsed on a stumbling Ian Miller, leaving Snaer open on the left side, they might have secured their first ACC road win this season.
Instead, it begat tears in the locker room and a long plane ride home, left to dwell on another game against Florida State that slipped away. After blowing a double-digit, second-half lead in their last meeting on Jan. 9, the Terps led by seven points with 6:26 left in the second half. But the Seminoles, who made 14 of 16 free-throw attempts in the second half, more than Maryland converted all game, tied things up at 66-66 after a Miller jumper.
“Never thought we were going to lose,” Turgeon said. “So it does make it hard. And we felt like we were in control. And we missed some opportunities. Then we had two possessions in a row, two out of three where we just fouled and we put white to the line. One on the block, late in the shot clock, then Nick runs over White. So we just gave them four points that they didn’t have to earn.
“Those hurt you. Those little things we that we’ll get better at as this young team grows. It hurts because you invested so much. And this was one we really put a lot into. We were really invested. We put a lot into every game. But this one we felt like we could win if we played well. Just came up short.”
Dez Wells, who by and large took over offensively during the stretch run, drilled a step-back three-pointer with the shot clock near zero. On the other end, Okaro White hit two free throws after Faust bulldozed him trying to fight over a screen. Following a Wells jumper, Snaer hit a floater to cut the lead to 70-71. And with 30 seconds left, Turgeon called a timeout, setting up what could have extended Maryland’s lead to three points and put plenty of pressure on the home Seminoles.
Some might argue that the play shouldn’t have been run to Len in the first place. Wells was the hot hand, and Len had performed a substantial disappearing act, finishing with four points, five rebounds, four fouls and three turnovers in 17 minutes, hampered by foul trouble and sitting out for a nine-minute stretch after intermission.
But Maryland, which Turgeon said executed offensively the best it has all season, ran the designed set perfectly. Len screened and rescreened for Logan Aronhalt up high, then slipped to the rim. Faust’s pass was on target, but Len’s dunk slammed off the back iron.
Even with their botched possession, the Terps could have still set up a triumphant plane ride back home with a defensive stop, something they’ve prided themselves on all season. After a Leonard Hamilton timeout, Snaer inbounded the ball in front of Florida State’s bench. Montay Brandon shot up the lane and caught the inbounds high, while Snaer floated into the corner. Brandon swung the pass to Miller, who drove baseline and slipped. Five Terps collapsed onto the ball, allowing Miller to wave an acrobatic pass to Snaer, who once again proved himself as one of college basketball’s best clutch shooters.
“The chaos led to it,” Turgeon said. “We knew it was a double screen for somebody. Either Snaer or Miller. We knew it was coming. Just didn’t guard it. Miller comes off that thing 100 miles an hour, got in the paint, we didn’t sink the way we were supposed to sink. I think the fumbling, we went after the ball, he just made a great play. Obviously we weren’t anywhere near him. I was hoping he’d take too much time and miss it. Sometimes you can be too open.”
Not for the guard who has now beaten Maryland, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke with buzzer-beaters, all in the past two seasons. The Terps actually withstood the pressure substantially well, given their penchant for collapses on the road this season, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and committing just four turnovers after halftime.
But there’s no solace to be taken from this loss, no moral victories from perhaps its toughest defeat this season. The road gets easier from here, beginning with a home game against Wake Forest on Saturday, but this wound will surely cut deep.
“No, I don’t take anything good from losing,” Wells said. “That’s all I have to say about it. Everyone’s pretty down. When you lose like that, everyone takes it really, really hard. Everyone wants to win so bad. We were just so ready to play, so pumped and amped to just get these guys for beating us on our home court. He just made a really good shot at the end. That’s really all I can say.”