Some wild finishes from around the country Wednesday night. Let’s not waste any time diving into them. Here’s what you need to know:
Maryland wins after Minnesota stumbles down the stretch..again
This one was equal parts great for Maryland and devastating for Minnesota.
Well, it’s probably more devastating for the Gophers.
Minnesota, its NCAA tournament hopes already barely registering a pulse and its coach’s job security looking increasingly suspect, led the ninth-ranked Terrapins by as many as 17 in the first half and then by eight with just over 2 minutes to play, but absolutely crumbled down the stretch as Maryland got a go-ahead 3 from Darryl Morsell with 1.9 seconds left to deliver a 74-73 victory at Williams Arena.
For Richard Pitino and the Gophers, it was probably the end of whatever hopes they had for an NCAA tournament berth that didn’t include a conference tournament championship run. They’re 13-14 on the season, and were already looking at being on the bubble from a considerable distance. A win against a top-10 team at home could have changed that in a major way, but a loss leaves them in the status quo. Put it in context that its another blown home game – not much unlike the Iowa and Indiana games earlier this month – and it’s even harder to see the path to an second-straight NCAA tournament. Which means an All-American-type season for sophomore center Daniel Oturu, who had 28 & 11 against Maryland, will likely go for naught.
So that leaves Minnesota outside the dance for the fifth time in seven seasons under Pitino. The Gophers are also in danger of finishing under .500 for the second time in three years and the third in five. The school president and athletic director also weren’t the ones around when Pitino replaced Tubby Smith – who went to three tournaments in six years – in 2013. There may be a decision to consider in Minneapolis next month.
On the happier side of the ledger is Maryland, which maintained its two-game lead over Michigan State and Penn State along with its chances of a No. 1 seed come selection Sunday. It was the fourth time this season that the Terps have overcome a deficit of at least 14 points to win a game. They played much of the first half without Jalen Smith, who was dealing with foul trouble, while shooting 31 percent from the field and going 2 of 14 from the 3-point line. Smith played all 20 minutes of the second half (scoring 14 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots) while Maryland shot 44.1 percent from the field (although still just 4 of 14 from deep).
All that is a long way of saying that Maryland was pitted against a desperate team on the road, played without one of its most important players and shot it terrible in the first half, but still won.
Still, Mark Turgeon is gonna wake up tired tomorrow.
LOL, Mark Turgeon after maybe the most unlikely win of his career: “My goal is to be in my driveway before 4:30 (a.m.). We played a 9 o’clock Eastern game at Minnesota on a weeknight. Makes no sense.”
Big Ten Network don’t care one bit.
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 27, 2020
Penn State blows a big lead, but holds on against Rutgers
Not a dissimilar situation from Maryland/Minnesota.
Penn State was the team blowing a lead in this one – a 21-point lead – but the Nittany Lions’ Myles Dread’s late 3-pointer delivered a 65-64 win for the home favorite and hand the team in need of an NCAA tournament boost a crushing L.
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) February 27, 2020
The Scarlet Knights have an OK resume – they’ve got three Quad 1 wins, a single Quad 3 loss and are 7-9 against Quad 2s – but with Wednesday’s loss at Penn State, they still don’t have a win away from home on the season. And for a team already on the bubble, a home game against Maryland and a road trip to Purdue isn’t an ideal way to have to finish the season and wrap up a bid before the conference tournament.
Conversely, Penn State is already clearly going to get the first NCAA tournament spot under Pat Chambers and has a couple of really nice resume opportunities left. They’re at Iowa before hosting Michigan State (and then finishing up at Northwestern). Winning the Big Ten regular season title is probably a long shot with Maryland up a pair of games, but getting a top-four seed is absolutely in play.
Kihei Clark won Virginia its fifth-straight game
When you’re in a down league and playing good-but-not-great basketball a year after winning the national title, you don’t generate a lot of buzz. Especially if you’re Virginia, playing games with halftime scores like 26-11, as was the case Wednesday against Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers, though, have now won five-straight because after the Hokies figure a few things out offensively, Virginia got a game-winner from Kihei Clark.
Tony Bennett’s team is now just a game back of second in the ACC and two behind Florida State in first with three games – including against Duke and Louisville – to play.
Virginia certainly isn’t nearly as interesting or good as the team that cut down nets in Minneapolis last spring, but they’re playing serious defense and getting clutch plays from the point guard. Not a bad March formula.