Sometimes sports can be cruel.
As if they didn’t know that already, the Maryland Terrapins got another dose of the pain of a close loss in a hotly contested game. This one came courtesy of the Florida State Seminoles and their senior guard Michael Snaer, who nailed a game winning three pointer with just one second remaining in the game thus enabling his team to escape with a hard fought 73-71 win against the Terps.
It was a heartbreaking loss for a Maryland team looking for its first ACC road win.
The shame of it is that Maryland did more than enough to win this game but just a few lapses down the stretch of the game would prove their undoing after a terrific effort. Eventually this game might teach this young team a thing or two about what it takes to win on the road but it will be a lesson that should sting for a long time.
Conventional wisdom says you have to do three things in particular to win a game on the road like this. The first is you have to control the backboards. Maryland dominated that stat throughout the night and finished with a resounding 36-20 advantage. The second thing is you have to make enough plays offensively to counter the runs you can always expect to come from the home team with their own crowd cheering them on.
The last part of the quotient is that you probably will need to make important free throws to grind out a win on the road.
For a good stretch of the second half the Terps were making those offensive plays. Check that, Dez Wells was making those plays.
The 6’5” sophomore transfer was an offensive force in the second half and ended the game with 19 points. He started the half by making his first three jumpers and finished it by making three huge jumpers over Snaer in the last five minutes of the game. His three pointer with just 1:57 left gave the Terps a lead at 69-66. After a pair of FSU free throws cut the lead back to one, Wells again nailed a jumper at the 1:30 mark for a 71-68 lead.
On the ensuing possession the Maryland defense forced a turnover and the Seminoles were forced to foul Nick Faust with 1:13 remaining. Faust has improved at the line this year and entered the game shooting 74%.
Again, a reminder of the fact that you need to drain free throws to win big games. Faust missed the front end of his effort- his third consecutive miss inside the last six minutes. FSU rebounded the miss and it set up a dramatic ending.
A Snaer runner at the :45 mark cut the lead to one. With a ten second differential on the shot clock, the Terps were forced to have to look for a shot. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with 30 seconds and diagrammed an absolute beauty of a play for his team to run and they ran it to perfection. As Faust initiated the offense, Alex Len went to screen for a red-hot Logan Aaronhalt. Anticipating that FSU would be all over Aaronhalt, Turgeon instructed Len to simply slip the screen and roll to the hoop and Faust would throw a lob pass to him. The play was well diagrammed and executed flawlessly.
Except, somehow, Len missed the dunk.
He probably had time to simply catch it and lay it in but he tried to dunk on the pass and missed it and the ball caromed to Florida State.
Snaer had won three games with dagger three pointers in his career in Tallahassee, including a game winner last week against Clemson. This would be his fourth and his second in one week.
That the Terps deserved better is probably undeniable to anybody who watched the game. That said, they simply didn’t do enough to win. They had some commendable performances from Wells and Faust and Aaronhalt but they didn’t quite defend as they have for most of the season (Florida State shot 46%) and they didn’t make the plays they had to make down the stretch.
Sophomore center Len was largely non-existent. Some of that had to do with foul trouble but he was oddly unassertive in this game. With the backcourt playing as well as it has all year long a little bit more help from the front court – particularly on the defensive end- would have been welcome.
It should be noted that junior guard Pe’Shon Howard did not make the trip south because of an illness and freshman guard Seth Allen was ineffective. After the game, Turgeon was pretty clear when he mentioned that one of his players was sulking on the bench that he was referring to Allen. He chose not to play him as a result.
The end result without those two players was what appeared to be a great deal more continuity and cohesion on the offensive end and Maryland shot just under 50% (26-53) for the game. It’s hard to believe that you can shoot that well and thump the opponent on the backboard and still lose the game but, ultimately, a win on the road requires more than just that.