Maryland, trailing Virginia Tech by three, had a late possession Wednesday night at Xfinity Center. A three-pointer was what Coach Mark Turgeon’s team needed out of a timeout. The problem: The Terrapins hadn’t made a shot from deep since their opening basket.
Turgeon believed Hakim Hart could get open when his team needed a tying three-pointer, and the junior guard took a good shot. But Maryland had missed its previous 10 shots from three, and Hart’s attempt with 15 seconds to go turned into the 11th. By the time Donta Scott missed another three-pointer in the waning seconds, the Hokies (6-2) already led by four.
The home crowd, once an enthusiastic bunch, headed toward the exits, and Maryland’s players and coaches left the court to scattered boos. The Terps (5-3) had led by seven with less than 12 minutes remaining before crumbling down the stretch.
“We’re all frustrated,” Turgeon said after a second straight loss, “because our standard here is high at Maryland. And the expectations were high coming into this season.”
Maryland center Qudus Wahab was an offensive force early and finished with a game-high 18 points. But foul trouble kept him out for much of the second half, and the Terps struggled to find production outside the paint. The Terps attempted only five shots from beyond the arc in the second half and, on the two occasions they most needed a three, came up empty.
The Hokies, who ended a two-game losing streak, made 9 of 20 tries from deep, with four of those makes coming after the Terps had taken that seven-point lead. The Hokies’ Nahiem Alleyne made a three with 5:54 remaining, giving the visitors a lead they would not relinquish. Virginia Tech shot only 38.3 percent, but the disparity from deep was “hard to overcome,” Turgeon said.
A pair of free throws from Hart cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 59-56 with 1:53 remaining. But after a steal, Eric Ayala and Julian Reese each missed a layup on the next possession. Reese then fouled, sending Keve Aluma to the free throw line for a one-and-one. Aluma missed his first attempt, and Scott grabbed the rebound and made a short jumper to trim the deficit to 59-58 with under a minute to go. But Justyn Mutts’s layup gave the Hokies a three-point lead, leaving the Terps needing a tying shot that never came.
“We just talk to the guys about sticking together,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got to figure out a way.”
Here’s what you need to know from Maryland’s loss:
Hokies take control
The Hokies took a 31-29 lead into halftime, boosted by Hunter Cattoor’s three-pointer out of a timeout with 38 seconds to go. The Terps came up empty on their final possession, and Virginia Tech stretched its lead to four with a Mutts basket to open the second half.
Maryland’s defense then clicked into gear, forcing the Hokies into 13 straight misses. The Terps’ lead was seven with 11:58 to go, but they didn’t capitalize on the Hokies’ shooting trouble as much as they could have. Maryland’s five starters had a nine-minute stretch without scoring midway through the second half. Ayala, the team’s leading scorer last season, finished with two points on 1-for-9 shooting.
“I feel like everybody gets a little upset when we can’t capitalize on certain things,” Scott said.
The Hokies finally ended their field goal drought on a three-pointer by Cattoor with 9:57 to go, and Virginia Tech tied the score less than three minutes later. From there, the Hokies had control. Aluma paced Virginia Tech with 17 points and Mutts added 16 to help the Hokies rebound after two losses in the NIT Season Tip-Off last week in New York.
“We were not very good in Brooklyn,” Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young said, “and there was a little desperation.”
Wahab excels early
The Hokies had few answers for Wahab, who made 7 of 8 tries from the field and all four of his free throws.
After an excellent start to his time at Maryland, the Georgetown transfer’s offensive production had slowed a bit. He had averaged 8.0 points over the previous five games, but he started fast Wednesday, scoring seven points in the first five minutes and 14 by halftime.
Turgeon recently said, “If Q’s not scoring one-on-one, we’re not going to be great.” Against Virginia Tech, Wahab won most of those battles under the basket, but Maryland couldn’t get much production from anywhere else.
Wahab picked up his third foul with 15:02 remaining and his fourth with 8:52 to go. Without Wahab on the court, Reese had an opportunity to flash his potential. He used his athleticism to swat balls away from the rim, picking up four blocks — all in the second half.
After Turgeon put Wahab back in with 5:45 to go, “he just made some big-time defensive mistakes, so we went back with Juju,” Turgeon said, referring to Reese, who entered with 2:39 remaining. “Juju guards a little bit better out there and recognizes things a little bit quicker. But our offense was a lot better when [Wahab] was in the game. That was clearly obvious to everyone there.”
Thousands of gold jerseys with Len Bias’s No. 34 filled Xfinity Center for the team’s first home game since the Maryland legend was posthumously inducted to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. As a Terp, Bias developed into one of the nation’s best players, garnering ACC player of the year honors twice. Just two days after the Boston Celtics selected Bias with the No. 2 pick in the 1986 NBA draft, he died of cardiac arrest related to a cocaine overdose.
“He's one of the all-time great college basketball players,” Turgeon said. “His mom and dad are on board with this. It’s about education. It's about educating our players about Len Bias. It’s about educating young people about drugs and all that kind of stuff. So there's a lot of good that's going to come out of this.”
As players at Kansas, Turgeon and Maryland assistant Danny Manning faced Bias and the Terps in 1984 at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage. Turgeon still remembers where he was when he heard of Bias’s death: Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kan., on a boat with friends.
“There are certain times in your life when a big event happens,” Turgeon said, “and to me, being a basketball guy, that was a big event.”
The Maryland players watched a documentary about Bias after practice Tuesday, and they wore No. 34 warmup shirts Wednesday. During a timeout, a video of Bias highlights played in the arena, and the school honored Bias’s parents, James and Lonise, during a timeout as they celebrated their son with the crowd.
“To see the sea of jerseys, number 34, and people clapping,” Lonise Bias said, “it’s like, as I have said over and over again, our ashes that we have have been turned into beauty.”