By Chris KnocheCSNwashington.com
In a game between two teams trying to find themselves in the early throes of the college basketball season the Maryland Terrapins outlasted Notre Dame Fighting Irish in front of 10,714 at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic 78-71.
While the Terps have had to deal with the loss of point guard PeShon Howard to injury and 71 center Alex Len to NCAA issues, the Irish have had to deal with the loss of their captain and all Big East swing man Tim Abromaitis to a torn ACL suffered in a recent practice. As a result, both teams entered the game lacking in direction and points- and very much in need of a BCS caliber win.
The Irish- as has been their custom- started the game with what amounted to a four guard lineup and tried to spread the floor against Maryland. They went on an 8-1 run to start the game in first few minutes and the Terps looked a bit lost on the offensive end.
It was at that point that Marylands Terrell Stoglin took the game over and held it in the palm of his hands for the remainder. With his team struggling to get anything going offensively, Stoglin caught fire and Notre Dame seemed powerless to respond. He hit his first four shots of the game and Maryland had evened the game at 15.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey had talked about the need to change defenses in this game to try and slow down the Maryland backcourt, but once Stoglin started going nuclear it didnt really matter what defense the Irish were in. Once he had shot his team back into the game, Stoglins teammates began to follow suit and built a 35-30 lead by halftime and taken control of the game.
Marylands interior tandem of Berend Weijs and James Padgett enjoyed an advantage over their Irish opponents in both size and athleticism and were able to take advantage of that throughout. For the game, Maryland out-rebounded the visitors, 40-30. Over the last few outings, Padgett has become a primary option for Maryland, and he asserted himself regularly. Even though he was whistled for a pair of travels in the first half, his aggression seemed to inspire Maryland on the offensive end and opened up opportunities for Stoglin and company on the perimeter. He finished the game with his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Befitting two teams missing critical components and in search of a quality win, the teams played an ebb and flow kind of second half where Notre Dame would challenge regularly yet never quite get over the top. The Terps, on the other hand, played with a poise that had been missing in many of the second halves that they had played this year. For much of the half they nailed free throws and defended the Notre Dame drive-and-kick offense with the kind of intensity needed to get a solid win on a neutral court.
Then again, these Terrapins dont seem to want to make anything easy on themselves, their coach or their fan base.
Maryland had fought its way out to a pair of double-digit leads in the second half but could never put Notre Dame away. The Irish responded to a 51-40 deficit by going on a 14-4 run to pare the lead to 55-54 with just 8 minutes remaining in the game. Showing some new-found resolve, the Terps then went on their own run 11-2 over the next four minutes and seemed to have the game in hand with a 66-56 lead inside the four-minute mark. The teams then traded points for the next two minutes and Maryland still led 71-61 with less than two minutes to play in the game.
Then things got interesting.
A lightning 8-2 run by Notre Dame that featured two three-pointers cut the lead to 73-69. Maryland swing man Sean Mosley was fouled with 56 seconds remaining and hit one of two fouls shots for a five-point lead but was countered by Irish guard Tim Martins pair of free throws just 10 seconds later and, all of a sudden, it was a one-possession game at 74-71 with 46 seconds left.
Brey opted to play for the defensive stop on the last possession and the Terps held the ball in an attempt to get one bucket to finally stick a knife in the hearts of the Irish. With 22 seconds remaining, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called his last timeout so he could set up a play that virtually everybody in Northwest Washington knew was coming an opportunity for Stoglin to make one more play against an exhausted Notre Dame defense.
Even without the element of surprise, Maryland executed Turgeons play and Stoglin rose and buried a difficult jumper just inside the three-point line with 13 seconds remaining and a 76-71 lead. After an Irish miss, sophomore guard Mychal Parker ended a perfect night from the free-throw line (6-6) by nailing two more to account for the final margin.
As excited as Terrapin Nation would be about Stoglin and his incendiary 31-point effort, they should also be heartened by Mosleys 17 and the efforts of Padgett inside. Parker authored what may have been his best game in a Maryland uniform with 9 points and 7 rebounds in addition to his perfect night from the foul line. The did not beat a great Notre Dame team but did beat an Irish team that is battle hardened and expects to win games like this particularly at Verizon Center where they were a perfect 3-0 in the BB&T event and have enjoyed Big East success in games against Georgetown.
That said, this game was going to be a good win for one team. The Maryland Terrapins are probably nowhere near where they could be in another month when they have a full complement of players but, for one night, they were able to come up with a quality win in an event where they have historically struggled.
They return to action on Wednesday night against Mount St. Marys at Comcast Center.