Terps prepare to face George Mason

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Terps prepare to face George Mason

Maryland impressed in their last game, a 77-57 victory over Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Terps simply outclassed the Wildcats in a dominant second half.

Even in a season opening loss to Kentucky, the Terps have looked sharp for most of their non-conference schedule, running to a 5-1 record through November. On Sunday, Maryland should face its last true non-conference test, with a neutral court game against George Mason.

Though Mason plays in the CAA and Maryland the ACC, DC locals and college basketball fans need no introduction to the Fairfax, Va., school. George Mason made its name known across the country in 2006 with a run to the Final Four that included wins over college basketball bluebloods like UConn., Michigan State and North Carolina.

Mason's success came under former coach Jim Larranaga -- who bolted to the University of Miami prior to last season -- but Mason coach Paul Hewitt has plenty of NCAA experience.

As coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hewitt led his 2004 Jackets team to the NCAA championship game. Last season Hewitt led the Patriots to a 24-9 season, though the team was left out of the NCAA Tournament.

This game will be key for Hewitt and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon as they work to guide their teams back into the NCAA Tournament. Non-conference wins play a key part in tournament selection, and a win for either squad would be a boost for their resume come March.

After playing arguably its best 20 minutes of basketball in the second half at Northwestern, the Maryland team has momentum.

Center Alex Len continues to garner serious NBA Draft buzz, while sophomore transfer Dez Wells really showed his capabilities with 23 points against the Wildcats. The Terps look to have depth and frontcourt size befit of a Top 20 team, and a win over an always-pesky Mason squad could show that to poll voters.

Led by junior guard Sherrod Wright, Mason will be a tough opponent for the Terps.

Wright averages almost 15 points on the season, not to mention the 6'4" guard hauls in about five rebounds a game. Mason already registered a win over an ACC opponent earlier this year, beating UVa. in the season opener.

Mason will not come into this game intimidated by the Terps, and it will be interesting to see how Maryland’s young team responds to the challenge.

Maryland should enjoy a noticeable size advantage over the Patriots, who are led down low by 6'8" big man Eric Copes.

With Len at 7'1" and three big forwards in James Padgett, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, the Terps can play an aggressive style around the basket. A key to Maryland's early success has been winning the rebounding battle; something the team has done in impressive fashion every game this season.

Mason will have to make outside shots early to free up space in the middle, otherwise Maryland's big men could take over. With Wright at the helm Mason could have the advantage from the outside, though Maryland guard Pe'Shon Howard has been playing improved defense this season.

With a vocal crowd expected and fans of both schools on hand at the Verizon Center, the game could resemble an early-round NCAA Tournament matchup. A preview of a postseason experience both teams would like to achieve. 

WATCH: Terps earn another shot at NCAA title thanks to thrilling OT victory

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WATCH: Terps earn another shot at NCAA title thanks to thrilling OT victory

The Maryland men's lacrosse program will get yet another crack at claiming its first National Championship since 1975 thanks to a thrilling 15-14 overtime victory over Brown on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The No. 1 overall-seed Terrapins (17-2) allowed the Bears (16-3) to force overtime thanks to a four-goal comeback in the final six minutes of regulation, with the game-tying goal coming with just over one minute remaining.

Maryland lost the opening faceoff in overtime, but got possession following a loose ball.  After settling in to their offensive formation, a defensive breakdown by Brown allowed junior Matt Rambo to find fellow junior Colin Heacock wide-open in front of the goal.

Heacock pump-faked, then buried the game-winning goal past first-team All-American goalie Jack Kelly to end the game.

The afternoon semifinal was destined for an epic finish.

The two teams put on a show for four quarters, with both squads feeling the wild ebbs and flows of a major college lacrosse game. 

Maryland jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to two goals in the game's opening minutes. Before too long Maryland held a 4-1 lead.

But that's when Tewaarton Award finalist Dylan Molloy, who was questionable heading into the game due to a foot injury sustained in an opening round victory over Johns Hopkins, led the Bears back. Molloy scored on a nifty inside roll dodge to beat senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr, and Bailey Tillis provided perhaps the goal of the tournament, beating Bernlohr with a reverse underhand shot while dodging on a defending from just and the goal line. 

Brown rallied off four straight goals to take a 5-4 lead, but Maryland Midfielder Connor Kelly responded with a goal from the outside thanks to textbook placement to even the score at 5-5 heading into the second quarter.

The two teams traded the lead in the second, with Maryland defender Matt Dunn evening the score once again thanks to a goal from nearly 60-feet away.

In the third quarter, the Terps took a stranglehold on the game, scoring four straight goals to take a 12-8 lead. Brown was able to finally break the second-half seal thanks to a broken-play goal from Tillis with 23 seconds left.

Maryland started the fourth quarter just like the third, scoring three consecutive goals and jumped ahead 14-10 with nine minutes remaining and the game looked to be over. But such is the nature of lacrosse. Like in basketball, where a double-digit lead can be earsed in mere moments, so too can a four-goal lead.

But things were starting to look bleak for the Ivy League champions.

Despite Kelly coming up large in goal for Brown with 11 second-half saves, the Bears were done in by countless turnovers. Brown had an astonishing 24 turnovers on Saturday, and despite coughing up the ball four times over the last nine minutes, their offensive firepower, and dominance at the faceoff (they won 20 of 32 faceoffs) allowed them to rally from behind scoring the final four goals of regulation.

Kelly finished with 14 saves for Brown, while Bernlohr finished with 11 in the victory. Heacock and fellow attackman Dylan Maltz both netted three goals for the Terps, with Heacock adding an assist as well. Rambo, the team's unabashed leader, had just one goal, but tallied five assists, including the game-winner.

Molloy, who will have foot surgery on Tuesday, finished with with two very gutsy goals. Tillis had by far his best game of the season, finishing with a game-high four goals, and one assist as well. Henry Blynn and Brandon Caputo each scored twice for the Bears.

Maryland advances to the 2016 NCAA Championship Game on Monday afternoon and will face North Carolina (11-6), which defeated Loyola (MD) 18-13 thanks to Chris Cloutier's Final Four record nine goals. The Terps defeated the Tar Heels 11-8 when the two teams met in non-conference play back on March 28.

But the stakes are much different now. Maryland, winners of 16 straight, are looking for their first NCAA title since 1975 despite this being their fourth championship game appearance since 2011. North Carolina last won an NCAA lacrosse championship in 1994 and is looking to become the first unseeded team to win a national championship.

The final game of the 2016 lacrosse season takes place Monday at 1 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn.

Maryland lacrosse Final Four preview

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Maryland lacrosse Final Four preview

The Maryland men's lacrosse program is once again spending Memorial Day Weekend attempting to get the monkey off its back.

The trip to Lincoln Finanical Field in Philadelphia, Penn., will mark the Terps' fifth Final Four appearance since 2011, but each of the previous trips have yielded zero national championships. 

In fact, the Terps (16-2, 5-0 Big Ten) have advanced to three national championship games since 2011,  but are still looking for the program's first title since 1975.

The Terps entered the 2016 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed for the first time since 1987 and find themselves once again a part of championship weekend thanks to victories over Quinnipiac (13-6) and No. 8 seed Syracuse (13-7).

But in order to reach another national championship game, the Terps will have to get past No. 5 seed Brown, the champions of the Ivy League and  top-ranked team in the country according to the Laxpower.comindex. 

Brown (16-2, 6-1 Ivy) defeated Johns Hopkins 17-6 and Navy 11-10 en route to the program's first Final Four appearance since 1994.

The Terps will have their work cut out for them despite the absence of Brown's top points leader, junior attackman Dylan Molloy, who suffered a broken foot in the win against Johns Hopkins. 

The Bears will call upon senior attackman Kylor Bellestri, a product of the Bullis School in Potomac, Md., to carry the offensive load, and the powerful dodger is more than capable, evident by his 62 goals and 28 assists this season. Aiding Bellestri is senior Henry Blynn, who enters the Final Four with 50 goals to his name.

While Brown does have arguably the most prolific scoring offense in the country, the Terps boast the most efficient defense in the country, and have a talented and experienced goalie in Kyle Bernlohr at the helm. 

Bernlohr was tabbed as a first-team preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse magazine and has backed it up thanks to an eighth best 7.88 GAA in 2016. 

The Akron, Ohio native tallied 22 saves to just 13 goals in the Terps first two NCAA Tournament games, but will be facing his most difficult test of the season on Saturday afternoon.

But the Terps are more than just an efficient defensive team. The junior attack trio of Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz are as dynamic a trio as ther is in the country, and wreaked havoc on a stout Syracuse team in the quarterfinals. Rambo finished with four goals and two assists, with Maltz scoring three times and Heacock assisting on two goals. 

Opposing teams are forced to exert extra pressure to the Terp' attack, allowing midfielders Henry West, Connor Kelley and Bryan Cole to find time and room up front. Cole has five assists and three goals to his name in the previous two tournament games, with Kelly adding three assists and West three goals.

A victory over Brown will not be easy, but losing is not some the Terps are accustomed to, having won 12 consecutive games since dropping back-to-back losses to Yale and Notre Dame to start the season.

The winner of Maryland vs. Brown will take on the winner of No. 7 Loyola (MD) vs. North Carolina on Monday, May 30 at 1 p.m. ET.

Turgeon comments for first time on new 4-star Terp Jackson

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Turgeon comments for first time on new 4-star Terp Jackson

Maryland has added four-star class of 2016 forward Justin Jackson to its roster, the program made official in a release on Friday evening. 

By doing so, head coach Mark Turgeon is allowed to comment publicly for the first time on the commitment that was reported Thursday.

“Justin has played at the highest level of high school and grassroots basketball and is prepared to make an immediate contribution to our program,” the coach said in a statement. “He is a versatile player who is a skilled scorer, good passer and has the ability to create mismatches on the offensive end.

"Defensively, Justin can guard multiple positions and overall has a great feel for the game."

MORE TERPS: OPINION -- TRIMBLE AVOIDS UNFAIR CRITICISM BY RETURNING

In a frontcourt thinned by NBA defections -- Jake Layman, Robert Carter, and Diamond Stone -- Turgeon had to look late in the spring signing period for a fix.

Coaching changes at UNLV caused the 6-7 Jackson to rescind his pledge to the Rebels and reopen his recruitment. Turgeon and assistant coach Bino Ranson led the way in bringing Jackson to College Park. 

"I felt like I immediately fit in with the student body.  They were all very welcoming and I just enjoyed being a part of the university," Jackson said in a release. "The team is filled with great and funny personalities. But when it is time to work and get serious – they can really buckle down and work hard."

With Jackson in the fold, Maryland has one remaining open scholarship for the 2016-17 season. Read more in a roster breakdown here.