Ds Scholarship

2002 Throwback: No. 3 Maryland 91, No. 5 Virginia 87

By Josh Barr, (Washington Post Beat Writer, 2001-02 season)
Published: 2003 – Regnery Publishing Inc.

Needing a win to keep pace with Duke in the ACC standings, Maryland seemed to be in trouble in the second half. Virginia’s Travis Watson converted a fast-break three-point play; then Chris Williams blocked a shot, and Keith Jenifer, a Baltimore native who had not been offered a scholarship by Maryland, made an open fifteen-footer from the right wing. With 6:19 left, Virginia had taken a 74–70 lead, and another long, quiet bus ride up Route 29 back to College Park seemed to be in the forecast.

“Man, here we go again,” Blake thought to himself.

Then came perhaps the season’s defining stretch. As Maryland brought the ball into the frontcourt, Gary Williams called a timeout. Mouton, standing in front of the Terrapins’ bench and as usual in the middle of things, had the ball clasped between his hands, with his elbows to the side to protect the ball as Watson tried to get it. After the whistle blew for the timeout, Mouton raised his elbows, grazing Watson, who didn’t seem to mind. Jenifer, though, was in the vicinity, and as the Terrapins tried to huddle, Jenifer was in no hurry to leave.

Gary Williams was about to blow a gasket. Not only was his team on verge of being blown out—again—but he felt an opposing player, a freshman, was showing up the Terrapins. Williams afterward didn’t want to talk about specifics, but there was no mistaking the words that raced from his lips. “Get the f*** out of here!” the television cameras caught Williams screaming.

“Your huddle is your huddle,” Williams explained later. “You don’t want other people in your huddle.”

Before Williams had finished yelling, though, Virginia assistant coach Walt Fuller, who looks more like a football lineman, came charging down the sideline from the home-team bench. Official Duke Edsall intercepted Fuller, preventing a full-scale donnybrook. Virginia coach Pete Gillen, perhaps the only coach in the ACC who might win a sweat-off against Williams, met near midcourt with Williams and game officials to discuss what had just occurred and try to ease the tension. But by the time the teams took the court, with the crowd growing louder by the second, it had all the feel of a heavyweight title fight.

Jenifer “was trying to show everybody he was tough,” Mouton said. It was funny because our whole coaching staff got into it. Nobody was backing down from nobody. Coach always says we’re a team and we’re going to fight together. From that moment on, everybody was into it. When we see our whole coaching staff fighting, they’re fighting for us and we’ve got to fight for them.”

Things would get worse before they got better for Maryland made two free throws, then drained an open three-pointer from the right corner. Blake, having an off night with just four assists and three turnovers, threw the ball away, leading to a tip-in by Watson. After Dixon missed a jumper, Watson scored while being fouled. It was 83–74 with 3:22 left and Gary Williams‘ biggest concern was that his team not lose by twenty.

Before Watson missed his ensuing free throw, Williams substituted Drew Nicholas for the erratic Blake and Ryan Randle for Baxter. It was an odd switch, taking out the starting point guard and starting center, but it worked. Dixon made two free throws, and then Wilcox stole a pass near midcourt and went in for a high-flying dunk.

Virginia called a timeout and briefly stemmed the tide when Chris Williams drove for a basket, but he missed a subsequent free throw. Still, it was 85–78 with 2:40 left. With Maryland trailing by such a large margin with little time left, Nicholas wasn’t hesitant about shooting. If he missed, so what? But he didn’t. First he made a long three-pointer from the right wing. Later, after two free throws by Mouton, Nicholas cooly hit a twenty-five-footer from well beyond the top of the key. Maryland trailed 87–86 with 1:21 left, but the Terrapins could smell victory. Baxter, back in the game, somehow blocked Watson from behind without committing a foul, and then Dixon floated in a running shot from along the left baseline. Maryland had the lead, 88–87, with 31.8 seconds left. Virginia missed, Tahj Holden made two free throws, and then Nicholas blocked a last-second three-point shot by Mason.

Maryland had done the unthinkable, rallying for a 91–87 victory. It was only January 31, but this was the kind of win that would have long-term ramifications. It also was a breakthrough night for Nicholas, whom Coach Williams called “Drew Nickels.” He had scored only six points, but his ability to stand up and deliver when it looked as if the game was lost had shown the coaches something. “My mentality was, ‘If I get a shot, I’m shooting it. If I get a three, I’m shooting it. What else are we going to lose right now? If Coach is going to take me out for taking a bad shot, so be it,” Nicholas said.

Copyright Josh Barr –
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